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Any blog worth its salt has to have a “3-part series” at some point.  So here we go.   This is the first post of three on the topic of the Consumerization of IT – a macro-level business trend that includes many topics. So, let’s start with a definition:  The Consumerization of IT refers to the introduction of consumer-oriented technology and behaviors into the realm of Enterprise IT. The first part of that definition refers to workers integrating technologies like iPhones, Flip Video cameras, Skype, Facebook, Twitter, and other originally consumer-targeted technologies into their workplace and workflow.  While that’s certainly a major trend (and the one everyone is talking about), it’s the latter part of the definition – consumer behavior in the enterprise - that might influence business the most, and in my opinion, will redefine the way technology is built, deployed and used within IT. 

What consumer behaviors have changed in the past 15 years that have the power to reshape the way enterprise IT works?  I say it all starts with the action verb that has most defined the internet era: search (and its sibling word, research). 

The power to index and search web-sites has driven a virtuous cycle of user search and vendor publishing that has totally changed the way people find solutions to problems.    Today, you are just as likely to search for a solution to a problem at your office, as you are to search for the digital camera that best fits your needs.  Seeking out solutions and researching purchases is now a basic skill that all, well most, technology buyers possess. But, 20 years ago, the flow of information about work-related technology was controlled by the individuals who sold the technology – and if those sales people only engaged the CIO and his direct reports, then he’s the one who got educated. 

Today, most tech vendors are pretty transparent with product info, either by choice or by force.  There are pictures, community sites, and user ratings and review sites for almost all consumer products – and an increasing number of enterprise products.  Some vendors (SolarWinds, to be sure) have even redesigned their selling and marketing model to focus on users who are searching out solutions, instead of trying to convince them of a problem they didn’t know they had.  You can tell the vendors who don’t like this change – just try to get a screenshot, feature info, or pricing for a software product from one of the traditional enterprise software vendors.  Good luck.

So, the foundation of the Consumerization of IT is the power end users have obtained by searching for solutions and researching their options.  That‘s a tectonic shift that changes the relationship between vendor and consumer, no matter whether it’s at home or work.  I’ll cover that relationship next.

Hasn’t every technology sector explained how the inimitable Moore’s Law has impacted it?  Well, I don’t recall ever seeing Moore’s Law referenced in Network Management, but here goes...

Over the years, there have been numerous technologies implemented in network devices - layer 3 devices in particular, like routers – built expressly for the purpose of improving visibility and monitoring of the network.  The two most obvious examples are NetFlow and IP SLA (formerly SAA), both Cisco technologies, introduced more than a decade ago.   Why are these technologies just now becoming table stakes for network management?  It’s because when they were introduced, they put such a toll on the router processor, that they negatively impacted routing performance, and that was a non-starter for most network engineers.

When I spent time at Cisco in the 1990s, router configurations that disabled certain features, reduced conflicting or redundant parameters, and thus resulted in the fastest router performance were hotly traded commodities – passed from engineer to engineer.  And management “features” that hurt performance were the first to go.  No NetFlow, no IP SLA.  Those were the rules. 

Today, router technology has progressed so far that you could favorably argue that they shouldn't even be called routers anymore.  It’s all about the extra features.  Why is that?  Because, router processors have continued to improve in performance according to Moore’s Law – doubling roughly every 2 years.  Today, you can turn on NetFlow exporting, and create a number of IP SLA tests in an edge router, and have essentially negligible performance impact on the routing performance (of course, there are exceptions to this, still, but I’m generalizing). 

Take a look at Cisco’s new ISR G2, which launched yesterday.  The new devices make significant improvements on performance and operational efficiency, by dividing key functions like routing onto one core of the CPU and ancillary functions, like IP SLA and NetFlow, onto the other core (or in some cases onto a separate physical processor altogether). 
Our Head Geek, Josh Stephens, recently did a great Q&A with Brad Reese over at Network World on IP SLA adoption and addressed the concerns around performance impact … more here.

So, there’s really no reason not to leverage these technologies in network management.  Let’s all take a moment to thank good ole’ Moore’s Law for taking a turn with Network Management.

Related SolarWinds Products:
Orion Netflow Traffic Analyzer (NTA)
Orion IP SLA Manager

And, if you want to read another perspective on Moore's Law and Cisco IOS, check this out.



Posted by TiffanyNels Oct 13, 2009

Welcome to the new SolarWinds corporate blog.  We've wanted to launch this for a long time, and are really happy to finally be in a position to offer our thoughts on a range of topics.  We'll focus primarily on the evolving IT systems management landscape, and along the way share our beliefs on why we are building a strong and sustainable software company to serve the IT pros in the industry.  There will be a range of bloggers from SolarWinds here, offering different points of view, and we hope you mix it up with us in the comments section.   So, without further ado... let's get it on.

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