I have traveled extensively over the final quarter of 2015, meeting with customers, prospects and partners. There is something about being on the road that gives clarity to business and as a result, it is clear in my mind that Information Technology is witnessing its greatest period of change. The Internet of Things, Cloud and Big Data are driving the massive growth of new applications and data. Rapid rates of application and data growth are forcing organizations to move away from legacy scale-up approaches to ones that provide seamless scale-out. Siloed and monolithic approaches to delivering storage, compute and network resources must be replaced by integrated and elastic infrastructure and services consumption models.

In support of these new consumption models, IT is being delivered as services delivered on-demand, leveraging cloud architectures. I am seeing the emergence of a new customer, whom I call the Cloud Builder or Cloud Architect. Due to the rapid growth and importance of this new role, I somewhat jokingly say, “the Cloud Builder has awoken.” This new role takes a different IT approach to meeting the needs of the business. The Cloud Builder looks at applications and data requirements from the perspective of business goals, not static technology silos (servers, storage arrays or switches).  The Cloud Builder’s mindset is closely aligned to that of a systems integrator in that they want a flexible set of tools that enable a building-block approach. Furthermore, they want to understand the business IT goals as a set of workflows that can be represented as events, and seek to build an infrastructure that can be easily automated to process those events with business-relevant logic . The old way of evaluating, purchasing, implementing and operating disparate technology components that had their own business-irrelevant silo-specific events and used manual systems to support business workflows no longer meets the needs of today’s modern business.

As a result of these changing models where IT is consumed as a service rather than as disparate technology silos, I am seeing a change in the evaluation criteria for new technology purchases. Requests for Information (RFIs) and Requests for Proposals (RFPs) have traditionally focused primarily on long lists of very specific technology requirements and protocols such as OSPF, BGP, ECMP, MLAG, MPLS, RFC 3580, RFC 7348, SRDF, Snaps or Clones, SnapMirror, Fibre Channel, etc. These technologies and protocols, at some point, represented answers to business relevant problems. Now they just represent “the way we do things” or unnecessary complexity that prevents IT from discovering their current business problems and needs. Although lists of specific tech requirements will always exist, the evaluation criteria has shifted to higher-level conversations about how the business needs to rapidly develop, deploy and iterate new applications and services that rely largely on the ability of the infrastructure to break down the traditional barriers of location, speed, cost, and evolution. Or said more simply, how does the technology support an increasingly uncertain set of business needs without creating new barriers. These conversations revolve around how technology can be used in a building-block fashion to create agile and elastic public and private clouds.

For the purposes of clarity, and to specify my point of view, I define public cloud as resources that are rented and private cloud as resources that are owned. The job of the Cloud Builder is to define how to leverage both the public and private cloud to satisfy the needs of the business. This change in consumption model and rise of the Cloud Builder is having a significant impact to the organization beyond just technology. IT culture is evolving as business processes are redefined and power dynamics shift in organizations.

Enterprises are looking to consume IT services through a combination of three cloud deployment models

  • Private cloud – a single active agile data center

Enterprises with a single active data center supporting virtualized storage, data and applications (and typically some backup or disaster recovery strategy)

  • Distributed private cloud – multiple disparate data centers

Enterprises with multiple, geographically disparate data centers want to create a single set of elastic compute and storage resources that represent a single application mobility domain for maximum leverage of resources and business continuity.

  • Public cloud – renting services such as Software-as-a-Service (email, CRM, ERP, etc.), Infrastructure-as-a-Service (caching, servers, storage, network, security, etc.), and Platform-as-a-Service (application development, web application deployment)

Plexxi boasts large-scale customer deployments for each of these three deployment models.

  • A large government agency built a private cloud with Plexxi to support 30,000+ virtual desktops. This private cloud delivered significant labor and cost-savings through operational efficiency and with storage and application workflow integration. They brought the cost savings and agility of the public cloud to this new private cloud deployment.
  • A large university created a distributed private cloud with Plexxi technology in support of a single application, storage and analytics domain across six disparate data centers to work on a a large-scale genomics research project. Rather than having to migrate and consolidate all storage and compute resources into a single data center, they were able to create a high performance, agile and distributed private cloud.
  • A global, leading managed service provider chose Plexxi technology to build a next-generation, multi-continent network to deliver data transport, private and public cloud services to their customers. They chose to move away from the traditional MPLS approach to building a service provider network in favor of a modern and more cost effective technology.

Plexxi has built a very powerful set of tools enabling Cloud Builders to drive agility and workflow integration across what were once disparate compute, storage and network domains. Imagine an environment where the network is aware of the events generated by data and application workloads that impact performance, security or availability, and has the ability to dynamically drive the fabric to ensure the SLAs are met, even as workloads move throughout the cloud environment. Imagine if you could establish a single, unified workflow that dynamically sees events such as large-scale VM migrations or data backups and configures the network and reshapes the network fabric invisibly as the events are generated in vCenter or other software-defined infrastructure tools. Imagine if you could horizontally scale-out new racks of storage and compute with zero network configuration required. The simple act of plugging in two switch cables, which takes a few seconds, is all that is needed to add new racks to your data center. The Cloud Builder needs to make the private cloud as cost effective, flexible and easy to consume as the public cloud. Cloud Builders need a better network solution. Plexxi Switches are scalable, dynamic and responsive, Plexxi Control software is intelligent, automated and application-driven, and Plexxi Connect provides processes and tools Cloud Builders can leverage to efficiently transition to the next era of IT. Plexxi builds a simple better network for both private and public clouds.

By delivering unique solutions and real-world value for organizations building clouds, Plexxi is experiencing rapid and exciting growth.  We are looking for the best and brightest to join us as as we grow and revolutionize the networking industry .  If you want to be a part of an energized, fast paced and cutting edge team, Plexxi is the place for you!  Please check out our career opportunities.  We look forward to hearing from you!

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