Last week Vendor X was briefing me on a set of new switches. The projector started rolling with a nice webconference slide deck and a voiceover highlighting customer requirements. It wasn’t long before I felt like Phil Connors (Bill Murray) from the movie Groundhog Day, listening to a radio DJ ask listeners if Punxsutawney Phil was going to see his shadow. This déjà vu moment wasn’t another data center networking briefing but, surprisingly, one about network campus switches.

The past five years have been an era of contraction. Businesses put cost-cutting on the top of their lists and virtualization and consolidation were the panacea for efficiency gains, becoming the shiny ball vendors used to lure customers into buying new solutions. As a result, every networking vendor has been rolling out solutions to address virtual machine (VM) mobility and storage convergence. However, priorities are changing: Revenue growth has just outranked cost-cutting in a Forrester survey of IT executives. I&O teams are altering their focus from where the VMs connect to the other edge where users hook in.

By bringing up video, wireless, and users, the speaker tried to say the campus network is a different animal and needed a different type of solution than in the data center. It seems to me the principles needed to architect an infrastructure that supports partners, customers, guests, contractors, or employees is identical to the one that supports virtual machines. What’s the difference between applications that can be moved, ignited, or dissolved in the public cloud, private cloud, or hybrid cloud and mobile users connecting at home, work, or on the road? Should the environment become any less resilient, secure, flexible, or efficient? This became even clearer when I took the key words from the data center presentation and Vendor X’s presentation and created two columns: one column has the users and the other has characteristics. The characteristics found in the data center are eerily similar to the extended edge.





Low latency

Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)

High performance

Video streaming

High availability

User mobility

Total cost of ownership

Unified communications


Virtual machines


Storage traffic





This week at Forrester’s Infrastructure & Operations Forum in Miami, customers will be learning to extend the I&O outside tradition demarcation line and improve customer experience for their buyers, suppliers, and partners based on the lessons learned from developing an agile infrastructure to support the employees. The extended enterprise dramatically increases the scope of I&O’s customer base to also include buyers, suppliers, and partners. The two days will help I&O professionals support these critical external stakeholders by designing scalable, agile data centers; delivering always-available infrastructure; adopting user-centric network architectures; enabling customers with big data; improving the contact center experience; and understanding I&O’s role in delivering the app internet. For example, attendees can attend breakout sessions that extend the lessons learned in the data center to the user edge:

  • Enabling customers through control of big data. Forrester will share how I&O teams can enable the right architectures, tools, and techniques to ensure that lines of business can leverage data analytics to create revenue-generating products and services while still managing an efficient, economic storage environment. Attendees will understand: Hadoop, MapR, and other efficiency techniques used in unstructured data analytics; why data warehousing is no longer the answer — a more flexible architecture is needed; and how to bring roles within the organization together to manage a holistic analytics process (from an I&O perspective).
  • How I&O can create a wireless user experience network. I&O departments often are not end-user-centric but operate with a “build it and they will come” mentality. However, network infrastructure is a critical component to ensuring that empowered employees are connected with their suppliers, partners, contractors, or buyers. Attendees will learn how to design wireless environments for user and leverage the multi-tenant requirements in the data center to create unique services for business units.