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Cloud-based infrastructure meets networking at ONUG fall conference

Cloud-based infrastructure is reshaping the networking industry -- an issue ONUG has seen within its user community and will address at its upcoming fall conference in New York City.

The cloud has come, bringing with it a torrent of change within the networking industry.

At least, that's what the forecast looks like for ONUG, according to the group's co-founder and co-chairman, Nick Lippis. Formerly the Open Networking User Group, ONUG officially rebranded itself, as it shed its data center roots to reflect the steps companies are taking to embrace hybrid cloud-based infrastructures, he said.

"ONUG started five years ago focused on the networking space, mostly around the data center," Lippis said. "In 2016, there was an inflection point in thinking." Now, he said ONUG's mandate extends beyond networking, moving to other aspects, such as security, analytics, monitoring and social networking.

To that end, Lippis said ONUG's fall conference agenda will address these changes, especially since its user community has actually started to transition to off-premises networking environments.

"What the community is really looking for is a user narrative around digital transformation and the adoption of cloud technologies," he said. Creating this user narrative is important, because there are conflicting thoughts about cloud-based infrastructures.

On one side, the vendor community claims migrating workloads to the cloud will lower costs, increase agility and provide users with a global footprint. But users in the ONUG community -- primarily Fortune Global 2000 companies -- find that while the cloud provides agility and the global footprint, it can be more expensive. Security and reliability impediments also stand in the way of migration, he said.

Nick LippisNick Lippis

"This has forced large enterprises to build their own private clouds," Lippis said. "Those private clouds are based upon cloud technologies -- the whole software-defined space and commoditization of hardware. They've been building these private [clouds] for the last couple of years, and now, it's really about taking that private infrastructure and building bridges to various cloud providers."

SD-WAN could be one such bridge, he said, adding that ONUG's SD-WAN working group will publish at the conference an API engineered to allow companies to connect to multiple cloud providers through the technology.

"Here's an API so orchestration systems can call into an SD-WAN environment and create connectivity for their workloads," he said. The connectivity will be cross-platform, so the SD-WAN API will work with Amazon, Microsoft, branch offices or mixed vendors, for example.

"We look forward to that being an automated way in which you can use SD-WAN, not just for connectivity with an enterprise -- connecting branches and data centers -- but also for cloud connection, so it becomes part of the hybrid cloud architecture," Lippis said.

Welcome to the cloud-based infrastructure era

The industry is in the beginning of a new era, according to Lippis.

"We had the mainframe era that provided automation for corporations and then the internet era. Now, we're at the beginnings of the cloud-based era," he said, comparing 2017 to 1998, when corporations began to rapidly adopt the use of the internet to support their businesses.

This change has implications for both IT budget planning and IT workforce skill sets.

"[For enterprise budget spending], all the money that is now in internet infrastructure will [be] packaged as a toxic asset to get it off their books from a capital expense point of view," Lippis said. "[This will] free up capital to invest in cloud-based technologies and their cloud initiatives and digital transformation strategies."

The IT workforce will require a major reskilling and retooling.

"In order to really get the advantages of digital transformation and to get a good business outcome in this digital world, you need really good leadership -- executive management leadership -- and you need new IT skills," he said.

Vendor-specific skill sets will be less in demand. And while coding will be important, Lippis said there are other important factors.

[The IT workforce] will have to understand policy management and big data analytics, because that's the way this infrastructure is going to be managed.
Nick Lippisco-founder and co-chairman, ONUG

"[The IT workforce] will have to understand policy management and big data analytics, because that's the way this infrastructure is going to be managed," Lippis said.

On top of the IT budget and skill sets, Lippis said it is important for C-suite and IT business strategies to align with each other. If they don't, digital transformation and cloud strategies won't succeed.

"What happens is the strategic investment for the digital transformation initiative is not there, the organization doesn't get restructured because there isn't that level of insight from the CEO, and business processes don't change," he said. "So, digital transformation fails."

A look into the ONUG conference agenda

The ONUG fall conference, set for Oct. 17 to 18 in New York City, will cover these issues and more, Lippis said. The Great Discussion, featuring executives from General Electric, eBay and Morgan Stanley, will showcase a panel debating whether enterprises should buy or build their IT infrastructures.

The conference will also feature the Right Stuff Innovation Awards, recognizing enterprises that design the best proofs of concept with various vendor products and services.

"We want to guide that money [from ONUG's annual spend] to companies that are addressing the requirements the Fortune Global 2000 need in order to deliver digital transformation," he said.  

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