We recently completed a survey on the impact and drivers of network complexity (detailed results can be found here) where 92% of IT pros indicated that increasing network complexity had impacted their role within the last 3 to 5 years. To any IT pro this is hardly surprising news, but what is interesting is the top drivers of this network complexity.


We broke the drivers into 3 categories:

  • Technology – new technologies promise to make IT simpler/better but we all know that this doesn’t always work out.
  • IT Operations – IT is always being asked to deliver new services, sometimes based on new technology, other times based on old technology.  But every new service requires work to run it well.
  • Business Operations – IT and business?  Yes, it’s true – business needs do drive IT and some cause more pain than others.



Within technology the top 2 drivers were smarter/more complex equipment and compute virtualization. The third most popular which fell somewhat significantly behind the first two was Software Defined Networking (SDN).  To me equipment complexity is interesting, it feels contradictory to the value proposition of smarter equipment – isn’t that supposed to make your life less complex, and save you time and money?  Perhaps the savings in hardware are being consumed by software and manpower costs required to manage the more complex gear.  SDN was also an interesting trend given how early in the deployment cycle we are, it seems that many folks are projecting how they think complexity will be impacted by SDN.


IT Operations

On the IT operations side I was surprised that BYOD and mobility ranked #1 and #2 for adding complexity to the delivery of IT services.  The ubiquity of mobile devices and the rate at which they’ve penetrated the work environment is amazing and likely caught many IT organizations off guard. Of course when the driver for a new IT service like mobility is senior management it’s tough to say no, so many folks charge forward and figure out the operational details after the fact.


Business Operations

Finally from a business operations standpoint security is the standout complexity driver.  From day zero threats to SIEM there’s no shortage of new things being added to the IT plate – and in case you didn’t know, security is every IT Pro’s problem not just the security team!


Getting Ahead of the Complexity

By now you’re probably feeling a bit overwhelmed and understaffed, and it’s no surprise.  What is surprising is that the number one skill that is needed to address the challenges of network complexity is “understanding the business”.  The context that business knowledge provides in making the right decisions is amazing and the majority of you know it.  Throw all the technology at you that the industry can muster, but if you understand the business needs you can cut through the hype and predicted benefits and get down to brass tax.  Shortly behind the business understanding is network engineering, and information security – in our connected world those responses that make a lot of sense.


So how to get at these skills?  Training of course.  But it seems that your management still doesn’t understand the value of training as budget and time were the top 2 barriers to getting the help you needed. This is a continuing trend, at a time when management will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on hardware and software, spending the time and money to get trained right seems to require a two-thirds majority in congress.


So there you have it – the state of network complexity in 2013 – change is inevitable in the IT space and getting the training and development to stay ahead of the game is critical.

Got thoughts on this topic?  Let us know.