The OSI Model Is Dead

The OSI Model Is Dead

The Open Systems Interconnect, or OSI, model that has served the computer networking industry for decades has run its course.

It was the most useful model in computing as it was the framework to structure our industry. Case in point: IT professionals were segmented into their respective seven layers of the OSI model.

The layers you worked with corresponded with the following areas:

  • Layer 1: telecom
  • Layer 2 or 3: switching and routing
  • Layer 4 and 5: a catch-all for load balancing, firewalls, IPS and a slew of appliances
  • Layer 6 and 7: code to create applications

Not only were IT professionals segmented into these seven layers; so, too, were the companies that provided products and services.

The Old Model

How to Be Data-Driven: A Guide to the Importance of Cultural and Organizational Change
How to Be Data-Driven: A Guide to the Importance of Cultural and Organizational Change
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The OSI model was handy and universally known, but it doesn’t apply anymore. These layers are collapsing, and in the process the IT industry is fundamentally transforming. The digital era has emerged without a universally known model, which leaves all of us on our own.  

IT business leaders tend to organize staff to reflect industry structure. When IBM ruled the industry in the 1960s-80s, IT organizations were pretty flat. Business systems analysts and operational teams relied on IBM for nearly all aspects of IT. In short, IBM offered a full stack from application to infrastructure with AT&T offering connectivity.

Then came TCP/IP, the internet and the “Wintel” personal computer framework of Microsoft Windows, Intel and Dell. IT business leaders transformed their organizations to align with this new structure and built silos that mimicked the OSI layer. There were, and still are, networking groups, security groups, application/development teams, storage, compute, etc.

The New Age

As we enter the digital enterprise age, IT business leaders are transforming their IT organizational structures, skills and cultures. They hire computer science engineers from the same IT companies that supply their products.

The reason? IT is now a solution-integration business.

Gone are the days when IT business leaders buy a full stack of IT products and services from one or just a few companies.

In fact, what collapsed the OSI model is abstraction and the emergence of clickable infrastructure. We are in an API, service mesh world, where IT’s main job is to stitch together multiple software building blocks to create a solution. These building blocks are cloud providers, startups, open source code, homegrown code, legacy providers, etc. The glue that ties it all together is of high value.

A Case Study

Consider an application infrastructure monitoring system built by an ONUG-Community-member corporation.

They undertook an internal solution integration project to monitor their application infrastructure by ingesting metrics, logs and events into a monitoring cluster that drives a series of dashboard-to-application teams. They stitched together Elastic, Kibana, Sensu, Filebeat, LogStash, open source collectors, API servers, Watcher servers, container clusters for Dev, UAT and PROD workloads, on-prem object storage, external tools, etc., to monitor their application’s infrastructure dependency map.

The outcome was a competitive advantage, thanks to much better UX, less downtime, higher application availability, and better relationships between application and infrastructure teams.  

Advancing as a Community

The future of IT is solution integration, but we don’t have a model like OSI to guide us. What we can do as a community is to collaborate on the development of a series of reference solutions. These reference solutions can guide IT teams as they build digital solutions for their corporations.

Over the past five years, business and digital strategies have converged. We are in the digital era, where executive management can describe the digital outcome they desire, but it is a very different skill set to build the infrastructure to deliver their vision.

The leadership to deliver digital outcomes is at ONUG. The ONUG Community is focused on building reference solutions that guide how we use technologies to gain digital advantage.

At ONUG Spring in Dallas on May 7-8, 2019, we’ll talk about:

  • New IT organizational models for the digital era
  • Agile for infrastructure
  • A cybersecurity reference solution for multi-cloud environments
  • AI for IT ops
  • Exclusive user-only roundtables
  • A user-defined hybrid/multi-cloud ecosystem of vendors demonstrating ONUG-Working Group-led proofs of concept

Now, more than ever, having a strong network of peers is fundamental for success.


Join your peers and meet new ones at ONUG Spring in Dallas. Enjoy a 30% discount off of your registration, exclusive to 451 Alliance members.

ONUG Spring