Martin Casado, general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, co-founder of VMware-acquired Nicira, and co-author of the Stanford research paper that invented software-defined networking, kicked off Interop Las Vegas with a provocative keynote on the future of infrastructure.
Casado said that the old ways of developing marketing and implementing infrastructure are coming to an end due to huge shifts in technology and economics. Trends such as workloads moving to public clouds and the ongoing adoption of open source solutions are reducing the power that infrastructure vendors have long held over customers, as well as the ability for these large companies to innovate.
He paired that assertion with the prediction that we are about to enter a new era, one that we could not even imagine five years ago: “Traditional infrastructure is going
through a shift, but we’re on the cusp of something much bigger, badder, and much more innovative – we’re actually entering a golden era of infrastructure.”
Casado explained why he believes it has never been easier for new entrants to add value and gain success in the technology industry. His reasoning hinged on the combination of three trends:
1: The shift from hardware to software. This trend is most evident in the maturity of virtualization and the emergence of software-defined networking, storage, etc. Casado said that while infrastructure used to always come “wrapped in sheet metal” from the vendor, that’s no longer the case. Today’s customers also have the ability to buy far more generic hardware components and customize them using any software they’d like. Hardware vendors are adapting to this by offering more software options and partnering with software providers.
2: The shift from software to services. An even more disruptive trend is the move from software to delivery of services from the cloud. As-a-service products are easy and attractive for customers to implement. The providers win because they can focus their efforts on scaling and maintaining one service in their own environment, without having to support the customers installing the software themselves.
3: The rise of the developer. Now that infrastructure is being developed in software and often delivered as a service, application developers will have more influence over products by choosing frameworks and defining the functionality that is deployed, said Casado. The shift of power to developers means significant changes in how IT is marketed and sold. Application developers don’t care about Gartner reports, certifications, or existing relationships with sales reps, he said. What they do care about includes an active user community, APIs, open source and technical elegance, and easy adoption.
Traditional infrastructure vendors have built their businesses around creating and maintaining customer relationships, nurturing channel partners, cultivating analyst mindshare, aligning with IT staffs’ existing certifications, and the like. These factors all play to the advantage of incumbents with large sales teams, long-standing alliances, and highly trained tech support.
A focus on development has enabled companies like Waze, GitHub, and Okta to achieve phenomenal growth in short order. As enterprises begin to emulate these innovators and focus on building applications in radically new ways, they are likely to disrupt the enterprise infrastructure market as it has operated for the last couple of decades, allowing lots of room for startups and those who think differently.
See a piece of Casado’s Keynote below.