At Interop You Could Watch the Network Disappear in Real Time
The disappearance of networking as a thing is almost complete. There are still a few magazines and some books about the technology itself, but vastly more about the things that networking enables, such as the cloud. Even now we mostly see networking talked about in terms of what it delivers, such as bandwidth and Internet access, or of a fiber that connects us to other parts of the world. But the network itself is mostly fading into the background. Of course, the end of the network doesn't mean that networking, per se, will end. The closets full of fiber optic cable and twisted pair copper and the machines that hum quietly in the background will remain and continue to improve. But those very improvements will serve to make the network fade even further into the background. Along with the virtualized systems and the cloud, the network will become more like a public utility every day. So what does this mean for events such as Interop, not to mention the various books and magazines about networking? Chances are they'll be around for a while, but they won't be about networking much longer. Instead, we'll see growing coverage of those virtualized systems and about the things that networking provides as an information utility. We'll learn about what's next in social networking, but not much about the latest in Ethernet or 10 Gig networking. So yes, it's safe to say that the end of the network as a separate entity, separate from IT or security, has come. Now it's part of the overall communications environment that surrounds us and provides us with nearly unlimited access to information, with the world appearing with the touch of a finger. Many years ago, we heralded the "Year of the LAN" as the network, taken as a thing, arrived. Now, it has become so ubiquitous that it's vanished before our eyes.
But lest you think I'm mourning the death of networking as a thing, I'm not. While much of my life has been spent with the details of cabling, coaxing network switches to work and configuring servers, today's focus on network functionality is a new beginning for the people and institutions that once spent their time working on networking as a thing. It's time to move to the next big thing, whatever we're ultimately going to call it. But one thing is for sure, whatever that new term we use, it won't be networking the way it was.