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How VMware NSX network virtualization could change networking -- or not

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IT silos aren't always bad, but VMware NSX will launch a turf war

IT silos aren't as bad as people say they are, unless they abuse tools like VMware NSX. Don't let it happen.

Everyone says IT silos are bad. We all have to work smarter, harder, better, faster and across functional disciplines if IT is going to survive and thrive in the new "Whatever as a Service," cloud, DevOps and SDN version of reality we hope will exist tomorrow. Maybe.

Except, silos are apparently sometimes good, like when VMware officially launched its SDN offering, NSX, to throngs of adoring fans at VMworld in San Francisco. (I wasn't there, but at least I'm not bitter, right?) NSX appears to further wall off the network and server sides of the IT house by encouraging the server folks to build their own network and just tunnel over that pesky old "legacy" network -- that immovable, inflexible, hard-to-configure beast that apparently weighs down everything we want to do as a business with its shackles and dragons.

The network, it seems, has become the new Unix.

I've had quite a few roles in my 22+ years of feeding the machine -- programmer, Novell admin, bearded-Unix guy, Windows admin, storage, virtualization and now management. I've seen silos work, and I've seen them lock IT organizations into Ayn Rand-like dysfunction, eventually devolving into Lord of the Flies with someone in one silo taking the role of Piggy. But silos are not always bad.

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IT organizations form silos out of a need for natural boundaries, but then those siloes often take on unnatural contortions. And this is where the dysfunction starts. It becomes the network guys vs. the server guys, Unix vs. Windows, Apple vs. Android, Vi vs. Emacs -- an insular world we think we can control.

In the role I have today, this us-vs.-them mentality of IT silos is precisely the kind of thing I can't tolerate. On the one hand, I have to have silos with very high-level network, storage, virtualization and systems engineers to design, implement and run their systems. On the other hand, I can't have my systems guys building their own network because they want to play network engineer for a day. I need everyone to do their jobs, but work together holistically to accomplish the larger goal of delivering services to the business.

I think NSX is interesting and it has a lot of potential. I think it's well-thought-out for what it is and has a lot of intriguing features. I also think it's a stopgap measure and it promotes silos rather than tears them down.

At the end of the day, if I want IT to make a successful transition from cost center to business enabler, I'll continue to push for silos that operate as centers of excellence and eschew those that use tools that claim to bring more flexibility to my network while further dividing my team.

About the author:
Lifelong and professional network engineer, VMware programmer and unix geek; whiskey taster; longtime practitioner of the art of beating computer and telecommunications systems into submission; brain hacker; student of everything; cancer survivor; lover of stuff that does stuff, and other stuff; freelance writer. blog.packetqueue.net. @SomeClown

This was first published in September 2013

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Essential Guide

How VMware NSX network virtualization could change networking -- or not

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