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Network disaggregation key topic at Dell event

Analysts focus on Dell's embrace of network disaggregation, how Google is narrowing the gap between human and machine and whether virtual appliances are ready for prime time.

Dell wants to be considered a viable player in the networking industry, and it is crafting a message engineered to differentiate itself from its competitors.

That message includes network disaggregation, partnerships with vendors Aerohive and Ruckus to provide both wired and wireless connectivity to customers and the development of new products for the branch, data center and cloud, according to Bob Laliberte, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group in Milford, Mass.

Laliberte made his assessments after attending the inaugural Dell Technologies World event earlier this month, noting in particular announcements made by Dell unit VMware to extend its NSX software to branch offices as part of a broader cloud initiative.

"Dell has made solid progress in the last two years ... and is now looking to accelerate its pace of innovation to create the right solutions for its customers," Laliberte said. "I expect to see tighter integration across the Dell family portfolio (especially for networking) to deliver wider reaching, even more comprehensive solutions while simultaneously ensuring it is still easy to do business with."

Check out what else Laliberte had to say about the Dell's network disaggregation strategy.

When a machine becomes a human being, what happens?

GlobalData analyst Brad Shimmin didn't write about a networking topic this week, but he did examine a development that may have more impact than a new protocol or a way to automate a router.

Specifically, AI, and perhaps more disconcerting, what happens when a digital assistant can pass itself off as an actual human being?

It's the so-called Turing test, named after the computer scientist who, almost 70 years ago, wondered if a machine could engage in a human conversation.

Shimmin said a recent demonstration at Google's I/O conference indicated the gap between man and machine is a little bit narrower today. Google Duplex, which was demonstrated at the conference, "is an interesting blend of natural language understanding, deep learning and text-to-speech technology designed to do one thing: use AI to emulate at least one-half of a human conversation," he said.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai took Duplex through its paces, using Google Assistant to book a haircut and tell the person booking the appointment the type of trim it wanted. It also tried to book a dinner reservation, inquiring if it could walk in because its requested time slot wasn't available.

If this seems creepy, wait for the next Google initiative, when it rolls out a version of Google Assistant that mimics the tenor and tone of singer John Legend.

What happens, Shimmin writes, "when the computer sitting in the palm of your hand right now can convincingly masquerade as you?"

Read what else Shimmin has to say about the future of AI and natural language understanding.

Are the days of dedicated hardware coming to an end?

So, are virtual appliances ready for prime time? Ivan Pepelnjak certainly believes it's the case, writing last month that software running on x86 servers will become the foundation for a majority of network operations within the next few years.

That brought a rebuttal from one of his IPSpace readers, who cited a recently released line of Palo Alto Networks firewall appliances as good examples of devices that require custom ASICs to deliver the performance customers expect.

Pepelnjak didn't budge from his position. Using a combination of math, some Google searches and some additional research, Pepelnjak said it would still be worth it for an enterprise to deploy virtual appliances from Palo Alto instead of the custom box.

As he summed up, "From my naively ignorant perspective there's no good reason for dedicated ASICs in network services appliances, unless you want to filter a single 10 Gbps stream, in which case you probably have a design problem to start with."

Read the rest of Pepelnjak's discussion about the value of virtual appliances.

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