How do you think? It’s a pretty basic question that has entire disciplines of science and medicine dedicated to answering the question. But there are some basics that we can infer from the way that people interact. One of the basic tenets of thinking is that we, as humans, don’t think in silos. Our brains are wired to think about topics in flashes. We spend some time focused on one topic and then move to another one. But we don’t typically forget about the first one completely. We spend thought cycles moving back and forth between ideas without isolating them completely.
The best way for our brains to work is to consider old ideas and learn about new ones at the same time. We can anchor our reference points to concepts we know and can understand while still applying them to new ideas. It’s the reason why metaphors and similes work so well for literature and learning. It’s also a great way for us to learn new concepts quickly.
So, what does this all have to do with networking? Well, after my recent attendance of the VMware Virtual Cloud Network Deep Dive, I took some time to sit down with Nick Furman of VMware to talk about the concepts being taught there and how people are starting to embrace new ideas in networking.
Nick and I talked about the fact that many people are stuck in the world of siloed IT architecture. They may not realize it but they’ve probably never seen anything different. Every piece of the organization has their own little area to deal with. The server team manages servers. The storage team manages the storage. And the networking team manages the interconnections between everything. You don’t play outside your area. You don’t work with the other teams unless you have to. Problems are traced out of your area and then it’s the other guys’ fault.
That kind of thinking is archaic and only leads to trouble. As we’ve seen over the past couple of years, teams work better when they are cross-functional. When the siloed walls are broken down and the synergies between tasks and technologies can be highlight it’s a win for everyone. Systems are more functional. People are happier. Knowledge isn’t locked behind a brick wall of distrust. Instead, people collaborate freely and figure out things quickly. The business can move faster because there aren’t little fiefdoms of technology holding each other back by protecting their turf.
And when teams are more functional, they learn faster. Remember how we talked above about how flipping back and forth between new and old ideas increases learning and memory? Well, learning those ideas from trusted people helps even more. When you break down the walls between teams you often find new things there that you had no idea even existed before.
Nick told me about one show where the presenters were talking about Kubernetes. Now, most people that implement VMware NSX are on the network operations team. They may know what a container is but they very rarely implement them. So, when the presenters started talking about Kubernetes the audience wasn’t quite following along. However, there was one person sitting at a table that was paying very close attention. He was thrilled to hear VMware talking about Kubernetes integrations and wanted to learn even more. Turns out his networking team was in the room at a different table. Those two IT professionals may have never met and exchanged ideas if the DevOps person hadn’t decided to attend a networking deep dive.
So, what does this all mean for the future of networking? It means that people need to be ready to see the traditional silos of their IT organizations continue to be broken down in favor of cross-functional teams that are capable of implementing new technologies quickly. It also means that traditional IT teams need to be ready to embrace new ideas through learning and understand how to make the traditional pieces fit together better with the new ideas that people are starting to roll out.
One way that you can really start to see these pieces coming together is to attend a Virtual Cloud Network Deep Dive for yourself. The VMware NSX team is doing an outstanding job of highlighting the way their technology integrates with new ideas like cloud-first networking and containers. They also do a great job of helping people start to change their mindset around how compute, networking, and storage infrastructure will look in the coming future of the cloud.
Special thinks to Nick Furman for taking the time to help me understand that people are doing the best they can to learn how the IT world is changing around them. And with a little help here and there, they can really embrace the NSX Mindset and start empowering their teams to do more.
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