Yes Cloud!

Connectivity versus Computing

Posted on: March 16, 2009

There has been an amazing innovation’s race between connectivity (i.e. networking) and computing disciplines in the last 50-60 years.  Generally speaking, end nodes are the “computing” elements that interact with each other over a “connectivity” fabric.  Together, they have fundamentally changed the way we live, work, play and learn.  As Cisco gets ready to launch its “Unified Computing” vision on Monday, it is worth looking at how these two disciplines have evolved and where they are headed.

First it was computing that led the way in the 60s, 70s and 80s with innovations in mainframes, minicomputers and personal computers.   Connectivity was nothing more than slow serial lines that allowed dumb terminals to connect to computing brains.  Next it was connectivity’s turn in the 80s and 90s with standards-based advancements in Ethernet, IP, TCP/UDP and HTTP that gave rise to client-server computing and our beloved Internet.  Connectivity not just caught up nicely; it began to lead.

Then we entered a new decade of a new century where computing started out with a bang, lead by server virtualization and workload mobility.   Sure, there was 10GbE to brag about on the connectivity front, but that was just speeds and feeds – no new intelligence added to the network.  It seemed that edge of the connectivity fabric was getting abstracted, absorbed by computing heads.  Even if one were to discount the blade switch (access layer sucked in a blade server), the rise of software “hypervisor” switch seemed a real shocker to the packet heads.

Where is my network edge?  How do I apply network services if the packets don’t come out?  Who owns the hypervisor switch?  How do I maintain network policies if workloads move?  Is the network becoming “dumb” pipes?

In the past those who bet against networking always lost!  Will that trend continue?  Will virtual machines, inter-VM interactions and VM movements be exposed to the connectivity fabric?  And in a standards-based manner for mass-scale deployment that is interoperable across vendors?  The answer needs to be “Yes” and is so proclaimed by the king of connectivity.  Let’s see how the future unfolds… Perhaps it is no longer a race between connectivity and computing, but instead a more symbiotic “connected computing” relationship!



2 Responses to "Connectivity versus Computing"

Hey Prashant – nice to see you blogging! Interesting perspective, too – network vs computer. Of course, where I come from, the network IS the computer 😉

Thanks Pat. Yes, I’m seeing that punchline more and more in this cloud computing era.. Do you think we’ll ever get to the converse: Computer IS the network?


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  • Kevin Clark: Interesting article. Keep it up.
  • Michael Segal: Prashant, An interesting analogy between the earlier and the most recent cloud models. What became evident to me based on this analogy, is the gro
  • Pete K.: Prashant, You are ever the professor. I see cloud computing as a semi-dumb interface (more than a CRT in a network PC - such as at an airport gat


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