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SDN and NFV are the real integral gears of modern infra: Ken Cheng, Brocade

Yogesh Gupta | June 28, 2016
The power of networking infra is moving from hardware to SDx and we are leading that industry transition, says Ken Cheng, CTO, Brocade.

We definitely see that happening. Many CIOs in the enterprise space actually mandate the transition because it is a necessity now. For example, big network operators have to move to software based infra, ot they will perish or be unable to compete with OTT guys like Google. At the same time, both operations and capex will be very expensive if they continue with capex-intensive hardware-centric networking.

Many of the CIOs have the mandate, but the company's middle management is struggling to make the transition. That transition of the infra will not happen overnight.

From an India perspective, the infra might be lagging behind the rest of the world, but these new technologies do catch up. Also, we don't have as much copper as the Western world in India, which means wireless has an important role to play. Companies are moving away from the waterfall model of five year planning cycles because the future network traffic is unknown in today's world. And hence NFV and SDN are good technologies for CTOs and CIOs to have on their radar.

Have the lines between CTO and CIO become blurred over the years?

As a norm, the world of CIO and CTO are very distinct, particularly in the enterprise and service provider environment. CIOs typically focus on the productivity of the entire organization through the right purchase decisions to enhance the performance and efficiency of the company. On the other hand, the CTO--particularly of a product company--focuses on defining the long-range technology architecture and making critical tech decisions on what's needed for next-generation products.

I talk to my CIO at Brocade all the time. The CIO speaks to me on the need to buy innovative products in sync with our long term vision. I approach him to build a particular product and use their team and help as a test case.

CIOs will continue to play the big role by making the right decision to enhance their organization's competitiveness. The CIO needs to be better informed, maybe more up to speed and more collaborative with vendors.

In the hyper era of digital marketing by tech vendors, do CIOs and CTOs get easily influenced by big marketing campaigns or is the hook of POCs required?

I think the world of making product decisions and how the customer treats the vendor is fundamentally changing. In the past, it was a waterfall model with the customers initiating RFP, everybody responding and the winner working for a couple of years to deliver the product.

That's not the case now. The modern customer has become much more sophisticated, but at the same time, they often do not know what they want. Our team brainstorms with them and helps solve their pain points. Sometimes, the problem is extremely new for us too as the customer is making the transition and technology is also changing fast. ,Hence we suggest a POC. Some customers, including in countries like India, often say, 'We love your technology on paper, but let's do a POC first.'


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