Network Innovation or Iteration? A Matter of Perspective

As a member of the tech sector for quite some time, I have seen my fair share of marketing trends come and go

Typically, a new term is introduced and quickly becomes the “hot new thing,” promising to not only deliver the end-user from the challenges of their current environment, but also give the solution provider the opportunity to make a lot of money. These new entrants into the market are always billed as innovative and the cure-all for the biggest challenges in the data center that will enable the business to be more agile and productive. Then reality kicks in and promises don’t quite live up to expectations.

So how do we, as consumers of technology and innovation, break the cycle of undelivered promises and ensure that we are investing in true game-changing solutions?

Recently, Gartner published the report, Look Beyond Network Vendors for Network Innovation. The report discusses how innovation isn’t coming from the traditional network manufacturers, and notes that true innovation is created and driven into the market by end users, specifically the web scale (hyperscale) companies. Gartner observes that traditional network providers tend to over-hype minor feature enhancements and iterate on solutions already in the market — instead of taking a fresh look at the situation.

Gartner’s position shouldn’t come as a surprise — books, such as The Innovator’s Dilemma, discuss this premise at length. Larger companies typically struggle with true innovation because they come at it from the lens of their product set and the need to protect existing revenue streams. This misguided strategy leads to slower iterative approaches to moving technology forward, as opposed to employing truly disruptive technologies immediately. The big companies are also slow to react to emerging markets because they are after larger market share opportunities, which is why big companies don’t typically innovate. Instead, they iterate.

Don’t get me wrong; iteration is not all bad. But there is a difference between an iteration that introduces minor improvements touted as solving major challenges and an innovation that presents a new perspective and means of solving the problem on a broader scale. While the compute and storage side of the data center has seen true innovation introduced in the last decade, I contend that the network has only seen iteration. This lag is now showing itself and causing issues for today’s enterprises dealing with big data, hyperconverged systems, and cloud native apps.

James Hamilton, celebrated VP and Distinguished Engineer at Amazon, railed against the network, saying the data center network is in his way. Web scale providers, like Amazon, realized early on they could not continue building networks the traditional way. It would be too expensive, too complex, and too difficult to manage. So, they set out to build a better network on their own without the traditional network providers who were slow to meet their needs. The basic principles of the design would be one system, built on commodity switches, 100% software-defined and with deep API integration, allowing any workload to be deployed anywhere, at any time.

Enterprises have taken notice of what the web scale providers, like Amazon, are achieving, and want to duplicate those strategies. The problem is, most companies do not have teams of developers to build custom network infrastructures, nor the resources to support them. In addition, the network traditionally is not included as a key part of the core business plan. Rather, the network is just one of many tools in IT’s toolbox, often deployed ‘out of the box’ and relied upon to perform and support the demands of the business.

So, while they want the same network agility and manageability the web scale companies enjoy, enterprises struggle to achieve agility and performance based on the available iterations of technology presented to them by known vendors. In addition, network innovation presents an exceptional challenge due to the silos created around network roles and the need for IT staff to manage the network. Because of this isolation, it is easier to pass through iterative solutions as new and continue the cycle of inefficiency.

The cycle of iteration over innovation stops when technology providers stands alongside customers, understand their immediate and future needs, and show dedication and creativity to providing matching solutions.

Taking this to heart, Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) worked with customers to understand their challenges in today’s world. As a result, they changed their perspective. The network is not a bunch of pipes – it is an energized mesh that is responsive to fluctuating needs, scalable to support growth, and simple to manage.

HPE Composable Fabric is the latest solution purpose-built to broaden the perspective of your network and deliver innovative results without iteration. Take a look at your network: is it truly up to the task or is it ‘just fine’? What could some innovation do for your business? To learn more about the HPE Composable Fabric, visit HPE.com.


About Thomas Goepel

Is Your Network Aware of Your Infrastructure? It Should Be. TechNative

Thomas Goepel is the Director Product Management, Hyperconverged Solutions for Hewlett Packard Enterprise. In this role, he is responsible for driving the strategy of HPE’s Hyperconverged products and solutions spanning from the Infrastructure Components to the Management Software. Thomas has over 26 years of experience working in the electronics industry, the last 25 of which at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, where he has held various engineering, marketing and consulting positions in R&D, sales and services. To read more articles by Thomas, please visit the HPE Shifting to Software-Defined blog.

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