With technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV) gaining momentum, the networking sector is set to undergo the most significant change in the past 20 years.
The open networking movement, encompassing technologies such as SDN and NFV, has great potential to disrupt the traditional networking model and the vendor lock-in it encourages. Through virtualisation, these technologies can offer organisations the ability to build better, more suitable systems.
A more open market can offer customers access to a range of offerings from different vendors, maximising opportunity for IT managers and CTOs, and giving businesses greater flexibility and choice.
However, the interoperability of all the underlying hardware and protocols that go with open networking means organisations can adopt different technologies, based on their requirements, which can be easily adapted – offering flexibility that cannot be matched by proprietary products.
Customers with more choice will need more help to work out which offerings they should buy, and partners that keep up with the rapid evolution of networking technology can also add their own value within the resale.
Every business is different and faces its own unique challenges. These may require bespoke solutions. Businesses must be able to choose a cost-effective offering that suits them. Channel partners can obviously help with that.
In the long term, businesses will benefit from reduced hardware costs. As SDN is more widely adopted by enterprise customers taking a more open approach to their IT purchases, vendors will need to compete more on price.
Innovation will flourish as vendors develop different offerings and try to differentiate themselves, meaning that the market as a whole benefits, with partners having more choices to offer.
The increasing commoditisation of hardware means the channel will need to rethink its hardware strategy, as margins continue to shrink. On the other hand, the software layer will become more of a focus as it is there that partners can enjoy higher margins through expansion into software and managed services.
With a variety of great technology already available, the advantage of adopting an open networking approach is that evolution is constant and an organisation will always be able to find a truly customisable offering for its needs. Meanwhile, the customer can react to changes in the datacentre and alter its infrastructure quickly when required, without needing to rip and replace.
Older networking systems can be much harder to update. Customer adoption of open networking is held back mainly by fear of the unknown, but if they trust the expertise of the channel partner, this barrier can be eliminated.
Mark Pearce is EMEA channel director for networking at Dell
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