The trends in IT over the past few decades has moved toward bundling more and more services into one. Evident on every scale from consumer electronics to enterprise grade hardware and software, bundling is what led to suites of feature-packed applications for everything from running a worldwide, multi-billion dollar organization to powering a smartphone. Now the trend seems to be reversing. Applications that were once all-inclusive have now split apart into separate applications, and many products that were once bundled are now offered only a la carte. What does this mean for the enterprise network?
What is Enterprise Disaggregation About?
|Products that used to be sold as package deals might soon come sold separately.|
Vendors have began the decoupling or unbundling of networking hardware and software packages, now selling them separately as white box switches or bare metal switches open to running a wide range of different software packages. For now, most of these offerings have been made only to those providing large-scale cloud services, like Amazon and Facebook. But a few instances of disaggregating networking hardware from software have appeared on the business scene (outside cloud service providers). Vendors offering disaggregated or unbundled networking solutions include Dell, Juniper, and HP.
Disaggregation is Part of a Larger Industry Issue of Decoupling Products & Services
This dissolution of service marriage is just one small piece of a giant puzzle within IT. Debundling or decoupling of products and services has begun in the software industry as well as among mobile apps. Examples include Google's breaking up of its app suite, Drive, into the separate products Sheets, Slides, and Docs. Facebook did a similar thing when splitting Messenger from the primary app, and Foursquare followed this pattern when it created the spinoff app Swarm.
The Future of Disaggregation in the Enterprise
|Networking skills are usually taught and certified by the vendors.|
Is the trend of disaggregation (aka unbundling) going to hold fast, or is this just a temporary thing? Well, that remains to be seen. There are arguments on both sides of the issue, some saying it's only a matter of time until enterprises are regularly purchasing their networking hardware and software separately, others maintaining that the trend will remain limited to large-scale cloud service providers.
There are both benefits and disadvantages to purchasing products and services separately. One benefit is that you know exactly what you're paying for. When you purchase a bundled product, it's often unclear (or hard to remember) exactly what all of the features you're getting are and how to access and use all those hidden features and functionality. Additionally, systems will be cleaner and leaner without all of the bloatware (applications and software that gets downloaded with large software packages that nobody really wants, causing system bloat).
On the con side, companies have historically expected a lot of extras to come along with the products they invest in, and it might not be cost or time efficient to have to begin researching and purchasing all those items separately. Even if disaggregation becomes the norm in the enterprise networking environment, it likely won't be any time soon.
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