So, I hit the tutorials at the Open Networking Summit, yesterday. Going back over my notes, some of my musings from the day:
- There is certainly a lot of energy and passion around SDN--it was cool to see what all the folks were showing in their booths. Granted, half these folks are trying to put me out of a job, but hey, that’s life in Silicon Valley. In general, a fun day.
- There certainly seems to be a lot of technical dogma for such a nascent technology. Cloud went through the same sorts of growing pains with arguments around architecture and technology. I think the sooner we can move beyond SDN being solely defined by a particular technology or protocol and start looking at SDN as a set of characteristics and capabilities, the better off we will all be.
- SDN will continue the trend of moving the IT decision-making center of gravity outside of IT and towards the lines of businesses (LoBs). Cloud kicked off this trends and I believe SDN will continue it. SDN will allow LOBs to assert more direct control, which is good, but, there is some maturing that needs to happen. I heard a number of folks refer to OpenFlow as the networking equivalent of the x86 instruction set. I don’t completely agree with the analogy, but it is illustrative. I am not sure there are many LoBs out there that want to be directly manipulating flow tables any more than they want to writing in machine code. Most LOB-based developers are using Java or Python or the like, not assembly language. Cloud had its almost vertical adoption curve because the barrier to entry was pretty low--pull out your AmEx and, bam, you are in business. Huge potential with SDN, but still work to be done.
- Speaking of which, there are some use cases like hyper-scale DCs and service providers, where SDN lets you do some cool things that are truly move the needle for them. In the enterprise, I still don’t see the killer apps. Talking to enterprise customers, most kinda shrug about SDN and question what it offers that they currently cannot do. For enterprise traction, the conversation really needs to show how it moves the ball forward. Kudos to Rakesh Saha from IBM yesterday for being one of the few folks to show how SDN can potential move the needle.
- There seems to be a tendency to discount current networking, which I think is a bit dangerous. From a user perspective, networking has gotten to utility status--its there and it works more often than not. Because its simple to use, does not mean that its simple to run and operate--there is a lot of technology and a lot of smart networking folks working hard to give you a simple experience--the same way being able to use light switch does not mean you are up to running a power plant. I get nervous when folks start proclaiming the “death of protocols” and saying things like “all you need is a couple of lines of code to do what you want.” Someone yesterday lamented the fact that there were over 6000 RFCs as an indicator that current networking is broken. I don’t know, I think that is an indicator that networking is vibrant and evolving and staying relevant to what customers need to do. There is a lot of smarts and wisdom codified in those RFCs. We should not be held prisoner to what has gone before but we should also not forgo the opportunity to leverage and learn from it. Some of you might argue that this last comment is self-serving. Nothing could be further from the truth--I firmly believe SDN will have a positive impact on networking in terms in increasing speed and agility and lowering TCO. I am a huge fan of disruption and its great to see all great work work being done by the ONF and other folks to challenge the status quo. However, I am a fan of creative destruction--destruction with a purpose, not just for the sake of destruction.
That’s it for now--need to pay attention to the keynote.