Is networking really cool again? Obviously, all of us at Cisco think so. Judging by the hype around a few networking start-ups, and moves by major IT vendors to add networking capabilities, we’re not alone.
The activity and innovation in our category validates something we’ve always believed: the intelligent network is the most strategic asset for our customers, partners, and even our competitors.
And we expect to see new competitors. As we often say at Cisco, if you don’t have good competitors, then you’re probably in the wrong markets.
Now the question on many people’s minds is whether the current transition in the market – a transition defined by terms such as Software Defined Networking and network virtualization – represents a threat or an opportunity for Cisco. As you might expect, Cisco has a strong point of view on this.
First, SDN, network virtualization and overlay networks (choose your favorite descriptor) are not going to commoditize the underlying networking infrastructure. These architectures actually place more demands on the core infrastructure to enable network virtualization securely, with high performance, at scale.
Why? Because customers expect their core infrastructure to be seamlessly integrated with servers and fabric interconnects. They want a common management framework across all switches (physical and virtual), and they want the ability to support heterogeneous server and hypervisor environments. Our experience is that they expect their networking vendor to fulfill those needs.
To be clear, there will be new business models and new architectures for infrastructure, but SDN no more minimizes the underlying infrastructure than a new steering wheel undermines the importance of a car engine.
Thanks to the numerous interactions we are privileged to have with our customers every day, Cisco has an unparalleled understanding of this networking evolution, and we expect to benefit substantially from it. Indeed, we already are.
Cisco pioneered network virtualization in 2009 when we introduced the Nexus 1000V, a ‘soft switch’ which made network virtualization possible in data center networks for the first time. Today, Cisco has more than 6,000 Nexus 1000V production customers using the distributed virtual networks to deliver highly secure, multi-tenant data center environments.
But it’s important to understand that network virtualization comes in many sizes.
Universities want network partitioning or “network slicing” capabilities, for which they require controller software and OpenFlow agents.
Hyperscale data center operators are more interested in network flow management for which they need programmatic network access via APIs.
Cloud providers want programmability to enable scalable multi-tenancy through automated provisioning and programmable overlay networks.
Service providers similarly want programmatic access, policy and analytics to optimize and monetize service delivery.
And enterprises tend to look at network virtualization as a way to enable private cloud automation for virtual workloads, including VDI.
As you would expect from the network industry leader, Cisco is addressing all of these use cases through the Cisco ONE architecture which we announced in June.
We have a software controller for the universities.
Cisco’s One Platform Kit (onePK) provides the APIs that hyperscale data center customers want.
Our SDN offering in Cisco ONE includes a host of Virtual Overlay Networks which extend support for OpenStack, multiple hypervisors, and VXLAN gateway functionality for consistency across physical and virtual networks.
Cisco understands very well the requirements and opportunities driven by network virtualization and is driving this market evolution.
We are actively participating in and driving industry standards in mainstream standards bodies such as the IEEE and IETF, as well as industry consortia including the Open Networking Foundation and OpenStack.
This week senior Cisco engineers delivered a plenary at the Internet Architecture Board on Programmatic Internet. This advanced the discussion on network programmability by capturing the problem statement, issues with SDN architectures as they are defined today, and interfaces required to the Internet to evolve the SDN model. There is a lack of standards to many of these features, which will hamper customer adoption if left unaddressed.
We continue to work with many of our counterparts in the industry to evolve Internet capabilities to address issues that cannot, for instance, be delivered by OpenFlow. A good example is the recent draft on defining the problem statement to enable Interfaces to the Routing system, as well as the associated framework. Such efforts will continue.
We know you want to hear more from Cisco about our leadership and vision for driving network virtualization, including SDN, and rest assured we plan to share more thoughts and perspectives on the future of network virtualization going forward. Stay tuned.