John Vincenzo

Author Archives: John Vincenzo

When Vision Becomes Reality

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  1. an underlying computer system on which application programs can run

Working at a start-up that’s trying to create an entirely new way of doing something can take your emotions on a roller coaster ride. One minute you’re loving the fact that you’re working your tail off to create something new, innovative and different; and the next minute you’re frustrated because change takes time and you want to prove that the vision the team is chasing, but not everyone is there yet.

For the Embrane family, today is a moment when we’re reminded why we put in those hours and push through those challenges.

If you’ve followed the Embrane story, you know we’ve been touting our plans to be THE platform for delivering virtual network services to enterprises and service providers. The vision Dante and Marco had when they started Embrane was that the Embrane heleos platform not only would power our own agile network services, but we would deliver that value to third-parties. We’ve listened to our customers, identified trends and evolved our solution to prove our platform was indeed a system on which application programs can run. We spent countless hours building the premier platform Continue reading

Out of the Mouths of Customers

It’s a busy week to say the least. Not only are we a sponsor of the 2nd Open Networking User Group (ONUG) meeting, we held our inaugural Technical Advisory Board (TAB) meeting. Leveraging the fact that many of our customers will be attending ONUG, we brought together some of the most forward-thinking networking and business professionals from enterprises, service providers and partners to talk about our company, our product roadmap and our ideal use cases.

Before I get into the highlights, I’d like to give Embrane a high-five because we can actually have a TAB made up of paying customers. In an industry currently dominated by PowerPoint slides and acronyms, having a shipping product that people are using is unique in its own right. Also, where there was a full day of great feedback and dialogue. I’m just going to cover three aspects of the discussion otherwise I would have to write a novel to capture everything.

Platform vs. Product

One of the liveliest discussions was around the value of Embrane to customers. If you’ve been following the Embrane story, you’ll recall we’ve been focusing our marketing message around application-centric networking and more specifically, as of late, application-centric Continue reading

Evolution Beats Revolution in the Software-Defined Data Center

Last week I participated in the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) Symposium and there were a number of interesting conversations generated from the presentations and panels. Topics included thoughts on SDN architectures, how applications are driving changes in the data center and where the money/budgets will flow from with changes in the data center. Craig Matsumoto of SDN Central covered some of the highlights in his piece on “What the SDDC Good for Anyway?”

One topic of discussion that got a strong reaction from panelists was around whether significant organizational changes are needed to build and support an SDDC, and more importantly, how to go about making those changes. Everyone agreed that changes should come, but as Craig pointed out in his article, several speakers advocated a “rip the Band-Aid off” approach to breaking down silos. I can understand why one might think getting changes made all at once makes sense. However, the Embrane team has spent a lot of time thinking this through and speaking to customers about their SDN and SDDC plans, and it’s just not realistic.

While it’s good for enterprises to have a long-term plan for redesigning organizations and operational procedures, a phased approach delivers many Continue reading

A Networking View of the VMware NSX Platform: Right Problem. Wrong Answer

What a week it has been.

I just spent four long, albeit highly productive days at VMworld 2013 in San Francisco speaking openly with customers, press, analysts and partners. The user conference, now in its tenth year, set a record for attendees with more than 23,000 and we were never without a steady stream of customers and prospects coming to our booth for a demo. Through the hundreds of conversations we had during the week, we found a few recurring themes and questions that bubbled up.

At this year’s VMworld, VMware unveiled a number of new and repackaged products for compute, storage, management and networking, eliminating any possible question about their desire to take over the data center world.  What seemed to garner the majority of attention from the wave of press releases was the VMware NSX Network Virtualization Platform. It prompted a ton of questions from visitors to our booth about what it is, what we think of it and how we compete with it (I won’t even get into how many times we were asked: Why do you think Cisco isn’t a partner for NSX?).

There are so many things that need to be discussed Continue reading

Applications…Meet Your Network

If you’ve been following Embrane over the past several months, you know we’ve been focusing almost exclusively on differentiating our business in the SDN space by promoting the fact that we have been the only company securing and announcing a steady stream of paying, in-production customers.  As a result, we’ve been placing less emphasis on touting the advancements we’ve made on the technology side. However, since it’s our technology leadership that’s attracting our rapidly growing customer base, it’s time to show off our technology chops too. This week our SDN leadership becomes even more evident with the introduction of our new application-centric networking solutions.

(Okay, it’s not exclusively a technology announcement since we announced another new customer, Ryan Labs Asset Management. More on them in a bit.)

While most vendors started their SDN movement from the bottom up, looking at ways to add agility at the connectivity layer (a.k.a. Layer 2), Embrane continues to take a top-down approach to the network. We focus on the network services that support, enhance and secure the ever-growing number of business applications in an enterprise data center. After all, applications drive enterprises business. The newest release of the Embrane heleos Continue reading

All Aboard the Application Train!

It’s been an interesting week so far… and it’s only Wednesday. In just a little over a day and a half, we’ve had hundreds of people stop by our booth at Cisco Live! and I wanted to share a few observations from those interactions:

  1. A significant number of people still do not know or understand much about SDN. This isn’t surprising and further underscores the disservice vendors have done at creating confusion that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago.
  2. When you talk about an application-centric approach to networking and network service automation, people get interested very fast, even when they are not building or using a cloud.
  3. Everyone is asking for examples of real use cases and deployments to help them determine which vendors they should engage/invest their time.

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised that networkers aren’t that familiar with software. Given that Cisco is talking a little more about software and software-defined networking these days, that’ll probably change by this time next year. In fact, Cisco spent much of Wednesday morning outlining its “vision” for application-centric infrastructure. From my perspective it’s a great thing to have Cisco promote the concept we’ve been pushing for a Continue reading

Know Your Competition: Observations From Structure

I spent the day yesterday at GigaOM’s Structure conference in San Francisco trying to see what my colleagues around the technology world are up to these days. If you have haven’t been to Structure, it’s always a good event – well organized, lots of 20-minute discussions and plenty of networking opportunities. There were definitely interesting nuggets shared from a variety of speakers at the show.

For example, I loved it when Ben Haines, formerly of Pabst Brewing, said he worked for “The Department of No.” I’m probably going to “borrow” that because it’s the reason Embrane is trying to help IT, and particularly the networking team. As I wrote in a recent blog post, Don't Hate the Players Hate the Tools, IT and the networking team need to have the tools at their disposal so they have to stop saying no to requests that require immediate action because they can’t react fast enough.

Then there was the CIO from Clorox, Ralph Loura, who said he’s constantly trying to make IT agile. As he said, his goal is to help IT enable business productivity. He gets it! He knows that if he doesn’t, the business units will go off Continue reading

Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Tools

The other day I came across an article, “Industry execs: Network admins an endangered species,” and I have to say, the headline did its job. I had to read more.

Executives from HP and Juniper, in particular, contend that network virtualization, and specifically Software-Defined Networking (SDN), will bring new levels of automation to networks, which in turn will lower operational costs because network administrators will no longer be needed. Specifically, their argument is that administrative or “people” expense is much higher than equipment costs, so automating will eliminate significant expense.

That’s one way to look at it I suppose. However, I would suggest that automation presents new opportunities for the networking team.

It is true that achieving significant OPEX savings is a key part of our discussion with customers when we talk about Embrane’s network services automation solutions that are being implemented today in enterprise data centers. However, we don’t talk about it in the context of, “how many heads can I cut?” Instead,  our conversations center around how our customers can best use the people they have, and what tools are needed to enable the right level of talent to perform the right tasks.

The reason we’re having Continue reading

SDN: Stop Differentiating by Names

Why does it happen with every technology cycle? First, there’s a period of great innovation, followed by the introduction of new terms and categories, which is always followed by a frenzy of differentiation-by-acronym. Everyone gets caught up in talking to each other and one-upping each other, instead of remembering why there was innovation in the first place. I call it “the yearbook effect,” and the networking industry and those who work in it, watch it and write about it are fully entrenched in it right now.

Think about it. SDN, NFV, OpenFlow, controllers, consortiums to build controllers, control plane separation, overlays, blah blah blah.

The industry has gotten so wrapped up in talking about definitions of SDN, the various technologies and how they get implemented, we actually may help delay adoption. We are supposed to be trying to help customers, but we are focusing on the wrong things and it’s confusing them.

I may get kicked out of the SDN fan club for saying this, but I’ve come to the conclusion after speaking to dozens of customers and participating in various industry discussions, any delay in widespread adoption of SDN is our own fault.

People are rarely, if ever, talking Continue reading