Apstra Blog

The Fallacy of the Network Greenfield Versus Brownfield Conundrum

Updated Jan 09, 2018


I was a panelist at the ONUG conference in New York, where we discussed the impact of automation and machine learning on IT jobs. It was a great conversation, which I enjoyed thoroughly. The debate of greenfield versus brownfield came up a few times in the conversation, and I remember jumping in at one point and clarifying that from a customer perspective, there was no “brownfield” versus “greenfield.”

Customers almost never “upgrade” brownfield environments; That would be akin to upgrading components or adding a new engine to a 10-year old car that doesn’t meet any of the performance, emissions, or safety standards that are readily available when one purchases a new car. And customers rarely deploy pure greenfield environments. Their upgrade processes are constrained by the need to support legacy technologies in support of their business that require them to keep the lights on, and prevents them from performing forklift upgrades of their entire environment. And even if they were able to do so, such an approach can carry unreasonable cost and risks of disrupting the business if the upgrade doesn’t go smoothly.

Instead, what I’ve seen customers do far more often is deploy what we like to call “green patches”. That is, they upgrade their infrastructure one incremental step at a time. This incremental new step could be a new rack or, often a new POD. This new green patch is based on the latest thinking in terms of architecture, and incorporates the guiding principles needed to meet the ever evolving requirements of the business.

This is more true today than ever before. Because of the urgent need to embrace the digital transformation of their business, enterprises are embarking on an accelerated schedule to upgrade their infrastructure. The guiding principles that CIOs leverage their new green patches need to set the foundation for log scale improvements in how compute and network infrastructures are built and operated, that is, reduction of capital and operational costs, while increasing capacity and reducing risk in their platforms. These guiding principles are as follows:

  • Simplicity of operations through turn-key automation of the entire lifecycle of their network services, delivering on autonomous infrastructure operations freed from the inefficiencies of manual redundant configuration and troubleshooting tasks.
  • Free yourself from your hardware: There are plenty of hardware options on the market, from established vendors, to open source offerings. Customers should have the ability to deploy the highest capacity that’s the most cost effective for their needs, and they need to do that seamlessly without disrupting their operational model.
  • Ability to scale to meet the needs of the business. This is accomplished through proper scale out architectures, and through operational models that enable the ability to grow infrastructure or replace devices to newer technology of larger capacity seamlessly.
Our customers choose Apstra for their data center green patches because we uniquely deliver on those three guiding principles, enabling them to achieve log scale efficiencies in the costs of building and operating their new incremental infrastructure deployment, especially when compared to how they built and operate their brownfield environments. Our customers choose Apstra because they understand the exorbitant opportunity costs of doing nothing; high rate of outages and lack of agility, both of which amount to a basic inability to compete.

They believe that Apstra is the right choice because they appreciate the deep technological innovations that we have incorporated in AOS, which made these guiding principles a reality: our distributed operating system approach which provides a foundation for scale, extensibility, and reliability; our turn-key intent-based approach provides unprecedented simplicity through powerful automation of the entire lifecycle of their data center network services; our disaggregated approach allows them to treat hardware as commodity; the systematic leveraging of open APIs and standards, which gives them control over their destiny; and last but not least, our graph-based representations, intent-based analytics, and continuous validation provides them full confidence that their infrastructure is indeed operating as intended.

Don’t waste your time arguing the two sides of the greenfield versus brownfield conundrum. And don’t fall behind from your inability to build the infrastructure that’s required for your business. Upgrade your infrastructure using a green patch approach instead, setting yourself on the right path for log scale efficiency improvements required by your digital transformation initiative. We would love to help. Please feel free to contact us or schedule a demo.


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