COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.–Networking used to be like storage in that many people used to say about both sectors: "So what's innovative about them? You store data in an array or in the cloud. Big deal. Networking is the piping that connects applications in IT components, systems and the cloud. Big deal. They're not processing anything, they're just providing the utilities."
Well, that might have been a succinct description of storage and networking in past generations, but certainly not in this one. New-gen storage and networking are now, in fact, hugely impactful sectors with multiple billion-dollar markets all by themselves. Ask anyone who knows anything about IT and those who attended the first Level 3 Technology Summit here at the Broadmoor Sept. 12 and 13.
In fact, the statistics remain steady that storage accounts for about 60 percent of all IT budgets, on average. Networking, with its faster, smarter new routers and controllers, makes up a lesser percentage than storage, but its costs also are non-trivial in the enterprise big picture.
About the Level 3 Summit
The Summit started off 15 years ago as simply a golf tournament benefit for Denver-based SungateKids Foundation, a non-profit that handles child abuse family counseling/education for three counties in the greater Denver area.
This year's event took on the added component of a two-day IT conference, since all the customers of Level 3 Communications are IT-related. The Sept. 12 and 13 event raised nearly $400,000 for the well-run and highly regarded social program.
Broomfield, Colo.-based Level 3 Communications, which hosted about 170 invited guests at the famous golf and tennis resort located at the base of Pike's Peak, provides network-based security, cloud service connections, voice and video conferencing services, adaptive network control and DDoS mitigation for a large number of well-known companies.
Level 3’s customer list includes Verizon, Equinix, T-Mobile, Southern Light, Amdocs, Accenture, Nokia, IBM, Red Hat, Juniper Networks, Salesforce and a score of others.
The Central Issue in New-Gen Networking? Enabling Self-Service
There were more than a few good insights that came out of the conference, but the No. 1 takeaway seemed to be this: Networking service providers, in serving their customers, are facing a major task: How can they enable their customers to build their own networks and design and deploy their own capabilities?
Companies like Level 3, Equinix and others have hundreds of applications on hand to supply needed business and professional services to their customers. Equinix alone has more than 1,200 at last count.
However, every customer has different needs, and there will be times when that "need" must be filled now. Service providers, try as they might, may not be able to work on an on-demand schedule for what is rapidly becoming an on-demand world. Thus, the customer needs to be empowered to make control changes whenever the demand is there.
Level 3 CEO Jeff Storey (pictured; for a larger view, right-click on the image and select "View Image") posed this scenario: "Imagine an environment in which an enterprise can log into a portal, order their own service, activate their own service, crank up and crank down their own capacity levels, change quality of services, change the amount of bandwidth they need, connect to different cloud providers, and manage the security an authentication levels of everybody with clearance to the network."