Network virtualization is just the next trend in IT to shift spending between CapEx and OpEx. It’s already happened with computation and storage in the cloud and things are beginning to take shape on the networking side. It’s a “when a tree falls in the forest” sounding question, but when everything possible is virtualized, is anything left onsite?

Of course, that assumes there is an onsite left. With everything in the cloud, accessibility questions tend to go away. BYOD removes barriers on the device side. But for this discussion, we’ll assume you still want a workforce that shares a physical location. If only to cross paths from time to time and do the occasional Thanksgiving potluck lunch.

Virtualization is driven by dollars. Many IT budgets are still impacted by affects of the Great Recession, with an emphasis on cost control of both CapEx and OpEx. Initially, the pendulum swung in favor of CapEx — faster/cheaper/better gear to increase economies of scale and performance. But with CapEx upgrade cycles stretching out, the related OpEx creeps up as maintenance costs rise combined with what some say is a decrease in the overall rate of innovation in high tech.

“Extreme virtualization,” the idea of virtualizing everything you can, including network virtualization where VLANs, VPNs and network functionality moves into the cloud/services domain is a growing topic. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) emphasizes carrier and service-provider solutions with the idea of moving formerly local network hardware into the cloud with capacity and services on demand.  Software-defined networking (SDN) looks to eventually place network computation in the cloud. Benefits include flexibility, security and performance… at a lower cost.

So in this extreme world what’s left? Well, wireless access has been taking over as the connection of choice with many client devices, especially in BYOD shops. So that means wireless access points (WAPs) are still around with steady improvements in speed, bandwidth and ease of deployment. WAPs are connected to Ethernet switches to move packets and power. There’s also the old favorite — the wired drop that will be hard to totally remove. Finally, connecting the organization’s LAN to the service provider’s WAN will take a router of some sort to provide IP addressing and routing functions, and also security and traffic optimization. But even this routing function looks to benefit from SDN technologies for its management.

It’s never overnight…

IT is at its heart a cautious, conservative part of any organization. Big promises of analysts and vendors are vetted and implemented gradually, and extreme virtualization is no different. This leads to the additional challenges of hybrid environments with some elements of networking virtualized and some physical. Challenges will include reliance on the network itself for monitoring and managing the network infrastructure, rapid identification and resolution of network issues and ensuring secure access to and logging for network components.

Fear not! As the network begins to virtualize around you, the Uplogix out‐of‐band platform brings the same functionality for continuous  monitoring, secure access and network automation in traditional networks and hybrid architectures. Read more about it in the Out-of-band Management for Network Function Virtualization Solution Guide.