These are the most exciting times that the networking industry has ever seen. I say that because there is fundamental change happening on more dimensions than has ever occurred before. Some of that change is cultural. Employees at most companies are now free to bring their own devices to work and those devices are contributing to a doubling of mobile traffic on a year over year basis. One of the impacts of that cultural change is that IT organizations need to ensure that their networks can provide visibility into the traffic generated by these new devices and in many cases, that they can optimize and control that traffic.
Some of the other changes involve technology, such as a wide range of virtualization technologies that are being developed. It is fair to say that in the current environment everything is being virtualized and virtualization changes everything. It was not that long ago that the word “virtualization” almost always referred to server virtualization. While server virtualization is still very important, other forms of virtualization, such as the virtualization of desktops and appliances such as WAN optimization controllers (WOCs), are taking hold. Some forms of virtualization create challenges for networking organizations. For example, moving virtual machines between physical servers provides agility, but supporting this movement places significant demands on the network. Other forms of virtualization have the promise of making our jobs easier. Virtual WOCs, for example, make it easier for IT organizations to conduct a proof of concept trial and to ship a WOC to where it needs to be.
For the last fifteen years data center LAN design has been very staid. Most large data centers LANs were based on a three-tier architecture comprised of access, distribution and core switches. In addition, virtually all data center LANs were based on the use of the spanning tree protocol, keeping the LAN and SAN separate and using Ethernet on a based effort basis. Today all of the assumptions that were used over the last fifteen years to design data center LANs are being questioned. The good news is that IT organizations that are looking to redesign their data center LANs have a very wide and growing set of technologies from which to choose. The bad news is that it can be very challenging to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of these technologies as well as the likelihood that they will be successful in the marketplace.
The goal of the networking track is to help IT organizations evaluate the technologies that they can implement today to solve today’s challenges while also providing insight into a wide range of emerging challenges and the technologies that are intended to respond to those challenges.