During a great conversation I had with Terry Slattery during Interop New York, he said “well, I don’t think anyone should be configuring VLANs and asking ‘How to configure a VLAN on a switch’ – we should be focused on providing end-to-end connectivity”, and there’s absolutely nothing in that statement that one could disagree with.
However, someone will eventually have to know how to troubleshoot VLANs, and when presented with that argument Terry said “Yes, that’s absolutely true – but that would be like a car mechanic looking at the engine in your car”, and then it struck me: one of the real problems we have with our networks today is that networking industry is a car parts industry. Instead of focusing on how to build and sell marvelous cars, the whole industry is busy selling car parts to home builders, who use them in a hodgepodge manner to get their unique contraptions.
Why would that be the case? Every time a new entrant is trying to do a disruptive move (and it could be 3Com or Cisco in the 90’s, or HP a few years ago when they decided to enter data center networking), they tell the customer that they can replace the parts from the existing “car” with a cheaper, newer, shinier and mostly compatible parts made by them, which inevitably focuses the discussion on specifications of the “car parts” instead of usability of the car and the ease of driving around (which should be the whole point of owning a car for most people).
To change that, we need a fundamental shift in behavior, where we start buying solutions (cars) instead of parts (routers, switches, firewalls…) that we carefully glue together… but of course that will never happen because that would be the ultimate lock-in worth millions of dollars and nobody is willing to bet their future or the future of the whole company on a single-vendor car (unless, of course, that vendor is IBM or Oracle).