A Sense of Urgency: Adopting Network Virtualization

Traditional networking is failing to keep pace with the demands of business and technology innovation. The evidence is overwhelming. Seemingly every other day an enterprise makes the headlines with yet another network security breach. Less publicly, enterprises are also struggling to balance the demands of their business units for new cloud services with their IT department’s ability to manage, secure, and control those new services.

Driven by this raft of concerns, organizations recognize the need to adopt network virtualization. A 2016 survey of enterprise organizations conducted by Accenture reveals that 95 percent of small, medium, and large enterprises believe their networking services will eventually be virtualized. Despite this overwhelming consensus, adoption of network virtualization remains slow for many of these same organizations. The question is why. “It’s a very reasonable question to ask,” says VMware VP and CTO, APJ, Bruce Davie. “A big part of the answer is that people, processes, and culture need to change.”

Ingrained Culture vs. Digital Transformation

Network virtualization is a key technology to enabling digital transformation. If organizations don’t adopt this technology, they will miss major networking trends and efficiencies, and run the real risk of falling behind competitors that do adopt it. But for many organizations today, the sense of urgency is muted by the fact that they don’t have the culture or processes to adopt a new approach to networking.

For the better part of 30 years, networking has remained fairly static, with only minor and incremental change. Networking has largely been focused on the goals of maintaining reliability and uptime, improving security, dealing with increasing bandwidth demands, and lowering costs. The culture that grew up around the static network of the past few decades is one that, in order to maintain reliability, restricts changes to the network. And in many cases, changes to network capabilities were achieved by adding a new hardware appliance.

It is difficult, then, for current IT organizations rooted in that culture to think in terms of networking capabilities that change rapidly in response to evolving application and business needs. But that is the kind of change necessary to implement network virtualization. To make that kind of change requires a change in mindset. And, as Davie observes, “changing culture takes longer than refreshing technology.”

Changing Culture. Adopting Change.

On a technology level, network virtualization is fundamental to allowing IT to remain relevant by enabling the network to be faster and more responsive to changing business demands. But just as important is how it can help organizations make the cultural change needed to transition their network operations. Network virtualization requires thinking about the network in a new way: as a set of capabilities deployed in software to meet the needs of applications, not as an amalgam of different siloed components. That shift is also the key to understanding what digital transformation is all about.

To begin the process of network virtualization requires thinking about networking that stretches across data centers, clouds, and any type of endpoint. Network virtualization is about more than “just thinking about decoupling the software from the hardware,” says Davie. “It’s about networking meeting the needs of applications, wherever the business chooses to deploy them.”

Network virtualization calls for a team-oriented approach. It demands dissolving siloed approaches, and thinking of networking holistically. Many organizations are first adopting VMware NSX® network virtualization today as a solution to a specific use case—security, most prominently. It quickly becomes clear, however, that NSX is not just a new network application that solves one network problem. It is the new networking platform organizations need to digitally transform their business.

A Sense of Urgency

Network virtualization is creating its own virtuous circle that allows organizations to realize what they need to do differently to facilitate their own digital transformation. For this reason, Davie argues that organizations need to feel a sense of urgency toward beginning their engagement with network virtualization. Starting that engagement will help them make the culture change within their own organization needed to understand and promote digital transformation. Davie likes to quote Reed Hastings, the founder and CEO of Netflix: “Companies rarely die from moving too fast,” Reed has said, “but they frequently die from moving too slowly.”

For these reasons, both cultural and technological, network virtualization is fundamental to digital transformation. It is the enabler to the “infrastructure-independent networking” of the future.