Making the network child's play

Brocade's Simon Pollard argues for a simpler approach to networking, and says the channel should take inspiration from Lego bricks

Before my kids developed into the smelly grunting teenagers they are today, they loved Lego™.  It offered limitless possibilities with no rules on how the bricks should be arranged into the exact shape of the star-fighter, or house, or wherever their imagination took them that week.

Much to their delight, with every birthday that passed, a new assortment of coloured bricks would arrive and the first thing that was built was whatever was pictured on the box. After that, the parts were separated, scattered and then recombined into something else. Lego truly does enable a world of infinite possibilities! They could build whatever they wanted, and not just what the toy designer thought they wanted. The only disappointment came when a new creation couldn’t be completed as there was one vital part missing, usually because the dog had eaten it.

If only networks could be built the same way. We seem to have got wrapped up in a dizzying array of complex protocols and technologies that have been designed to solve relatively simple problems. Whatever happed to plug-and-play? The geeks need to rediscover Lego and become inspired again.

This is where the idea of the Effortless Network comes in. And the vision is that we get just that; a world where building, managing and maintaining the campus network architecture is simplified and configuration and management tasks are automated.

Campus networks need to be made fit for the environment that they are being deployed into. The Effortless Network makes things simpler and more flexible by allowing network managers to build the networks that their businesses need, rather than having to settle for what a device manufacturer had in mind.

The best part about this network approach is that we’re just at the beginning, there is so much more to come

One way of doing this is to use Ethernet as the connection medium within a switch stack. This allows far greater deployment flexibility. A stack can actually be distributed across multiple wiring closets (or racks in a datacentre) with the stacking protocols ensuring that the connections are secure, resilient and efficient. And because the distributed stack is a single management entity, configuration changes, software deployment and failure recovery are greatly simplified and become faster and more reliable. The best part about this network approach is that we’re just at the beginning, there is so much more to come.

So, while many network providers fill the channel's ears with the latest buzzwords and jargon, the IT needs of businesses today remain clear. Enterprises are already adopting mobile, cloud and social technology, all of which are changing how the business of business is done. These big technology trends are enabling businesses to be more dynamic than ever, and in response organisations are looking for a network that will enable them to keep evolving their IT environment so they can become flexible enough to respond quickly to changing business dynamics and grasp any competitive advantages.  An innovative new approach that creates a reliable, easy to manage network so businesses get maximum value from their investments is the key in supporting this shift in working practices.

So maybe there is another way and you don’t have to build the network the way the geeks intended; with the right building blocks, the possibilities are endless. Let’s be creative with technology again, so simplicity can provide a route to innovation for businesses now and in the future.

Simon Pollard is EMEA product manager at Brocade

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