On January 10, David Bowie passed away. He was an icon in the music world, with a career spanning 5 decades, and selling 140 million albums, with many going to number 1 on the charts. And yes, you are reading a Data Center blog that will, eventually, wind its way back to the more familiar topics of containers, microservices, clouds, as well as routing tables, MAC addresses and buffering algorithms. They are all connected, as we shall see over the next couple weeks and posts.

Back to Mr. Bowie. When he passed away last month, the German government sent out this tweet:

david bowie german govt tweet

Why?   We’ll get to that, but first let’s consider his hit song “Changes”. That song, in many ways, was symbolic of Bowie’s life. He was a very creative guy, in terms of the music he made and also his ventures into other areas – fashion, film…he even started his own Internet Service Provider. He went through significant changes in terms of his overall look, style and sound.

He reflected cultural shifts – over time and space (he was popular on multiple continents, over many years) – and, to some extent, impacted these shifts. He was relevant in different eras and different places. One of those places was in Berlin, which is where Cisco Live is happening this week. He actually lived there for 3 years from 1976-1979, during which he recorded 3 albums. One of them had a song on it called “Heroes”, about a couple that met at the Berlin wall. It was a story of desperation and hopelessness.

In any case, “Changes” could be the anthem for what we are seeing in the industry right now. Tech in general and networking in particular are always changing. Over the past few decades we’ve seen many new protocols, media, speeds, operating models, etc.   However, never before has there been such a major set of far reaching changes hitting us all at once. This convergence of change is creating a seemingly infinite loop between technology and business, one that is accelerating and cycling at a dizzying pace. Digitization is having a hugely disruptive influence on business, which then demands more from the technology, which then delivers new innovation having a disruptive influence on the business…and round and round we go. Note this disruption to the business can be either positive or negative, depending on how capable/innovative the business is to integrate and exploit the new technology. ‘Tis much better to be a disruptor than to be disrupted.

A few of the key trends causing this disruption include containers/microservices, cloud and hyperconvergence.

Containers are picking up a lot of momentum. Fast. We will see lots of containers, ‘across time and space’, i.e. over the coming months/years, irrespective of geographies, vertical markets, or organizational size. Docker hub pulls grew from 11.3 million in January 2015 to 1.3 billion in October 2015. Why? They offer a lighter weight, faster, more scalable way (vs VMs) to operate and isolate multiple apps on the same operating system.

As traditional apps are deconstructed into multiple microservices running on containers, each of those containers represents new addressable endpoints on the network. How many more endpoints? Lots. As a result, any given RU will see dramatic increases in the number of endpoints. I’ve seen many different projections, but it appears that the rough numbers indicate we’re looking at a move from like dozens of VM’s per RU to 100’s of containers per RU.  As this concept is multiplied across the rack, aisle and overall data center, all those new endpoints mean a corresponding increase in addresses, routes, etc.

As customers struggle to deal with these increasing requirements, they will seek out new ways deal with them. These new ways will be the subject of the next 2 posts, along with consideration of how both hyperconvergence and cloud play into this mix, beyond them simply reflecting the output of a random buzzword generator.

As for Mr. Bowie, I learned that about a decade after he left Berlin, he returned – in 1987 – to do a concert at the Berlin Wall. It was actually a dual concert because he played in West Berlin, but thousands of fan’s gathered on the East Berlin side as well, and could hear as he played “Heroes”, and spoke in German. Riots erupted on the East Berlin side. The following week, Ronald Reagan delivered his famous speech telling Gorbachev “Tear down this wall”.  It’s said that these riots served as the catalyst for a parade of revolt over the next 2 years that ultimately led to the Wall coming down. So, that is the somewhat embellished story behind the tweet that opened this post, and the way David Bowie, Containers and Cisco Live Europe are (at least in my perhaps twisted view of the world) connected.

In summary, one could say that the Wall stood between an ineffective political/economic system that did not meet the needs of a changing world, and the promise of change, openness, freedom and security. Actually, Reagan used those very words (bolded) in his speech at the wall. These same words can be used to describe many of the innovations at Cisco Live Berlin this week.   Innovations that are enabling customers to adapt to a changing world, with open API’s and standards, freedom of choice and embedded security. Note, I am not being so ludicrous as to say there is any comparison between the impact of the 2 events – I’m just saying one is a metaphor for the other. Check back next week as we cover more about these innovations and how they address major trends of change in the industry.


Craig Huitema

No Longer with Cisco