Dell Force10’s Mikael Lofstrand on the Future of the Network


Yesterday Oracle announced its Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c, which adds cloud management features to Enterprise Manager. Today Force10, which Dell acquired this year, announced Dell Force10 Open Automation Plug-in for Oracle Enterprise Manager 12c, which brings network monitoring and automation tools for Force10 hardware into Enterprise Manager. To mark the occasion, SiliconAngle had Force10 Chief Architect Mikael Lofstrand on The Cube to talk about trends in network technology. Wikibon co-founder and analyst Dave Vellante conducted the interview.

When asked about the trends defining the next generation of networking technology, Lofstrand cited two: network virtualization and network automation. He said that network virtualization is the big trend now, but that you’ll see more automation in the future. I agree: network virtualization tools from Cisco, Dell and HP are making networks easier to implement and maintain. Most importantly, by converting as much network infrastructure as possible from hardware to software, virtualization is enabling the next big trend: automation.

The open source virtual server automation tool Puppet and the commercial Puppet Enterprise have seen tremendous growth and help fuel the DevOps movement. Force10 seems to be positioning itself to be the Puppet of network automation.

Dave also asked Lofstrand about flat networks and whether it was something he was seeing customers adopt or if it’s just an analyst buzzword. Lofstrand said it’s a real trend, but it’s still too early to see how it will play out. We’ve covered the advantages of flat networks here and Wikibon goes into additional detail here.

Services Angle

Network virtualization and automation are making entirely new classes of cloud services possible. For example, network engineering and automation won’t need to take place entirely on premises any more. We’re already seeing several cloud-based monitoring services from vendors ranging from Spiceworks to Netuitive.

But these sorts of monitoring services are just the beginning. Look at Puppet and virtual network hardware and think about what sorts of services could be available in just a few years. Force10’s automatic balancing tools provide some clues as to what’s possible, but I have the feeling we haven’t seen anything yet.