As I was thinking about how best to advise you on how to "experiment" with SDN technologies, and more specifically why you should run a formal pilot to evaluate SDN technology options (a topic I covered in my previous blog), I was reminded of this “wipeout” picture I took last year at a "freeride" competition – the "Coe Cup" - at my local ski mountain, Glencoe Moutain Resort, here in the UK. Let me tell you why!
Why you may want to "pilot" new technology adoption!
If you were to believe the industry press, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that many companies across the world were rolling software defined networking (SDN) technologies into their networks today. I'm part of Cisco's Services team and my colleagues across the world are the experts in helping you all design and deploy networks. If there is a large or complex leading (or bleeding!) edge network out there being designed, you can place a safe bet that someone from the Cisco Services team is involved helping our customers achieve their targets. If you're involved in deploying any type of high technology equipment, you'll appreciate that there is a world of difference between selling, demoing, and actually making it all work in your environment when it comes to new technology. Our team are in the latter camp.
So what are our consultants telling me about SDN in the real world? Excluding a few notable high profile cases (usually involving hyper-scale data centers) they are not seeing - as yet, to be honest - many early deployments. However they are seeing a growing number of customers interest in learning about and evaluating SDN related technologies - including Cisco ONE, NFV and in particular Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). And they are providing some early feedback on the use cases of SDN that customers are most interested in. They are all clear, however, on this point: this is the time to learn what SDN and Cisco ONE can do for your network in the future.
So how do you get started in SDN? Let me outline 5 key steps to help you get started. I'll also point you to a technical white paper written by Mitch Mitchiner and Reema Prasad, two of our Customer Solutions Architects in Cisco Services, two of our experts responsible for making all of this work for you, your team and your business. I also recommend you check out the video link I've provided, for an excellent live demo of Cisco ONE technology, first presented at Cisco Live last year. This video gives a live demo of latency-based routing, one of the use cases described in Mitch and Reema's paper.
The other week I attended the “Software Defined Networking 2013” conference in London. This is a UK-based event for the discussion of SDN, OpenFlow and Network Virtualisation Solutions from a strategic perspective. There were quite a few interesting perspective s I picked up at this conference. In particular, the conference for me reinforced the potential of SDN – but if you apply it to the wrong problem, you may not get the return you hope for!
Top of mind for me, then, coming out of this conference was a demo of “What SDN Can Do For You” from one of our competitors. At best, the phrase “using a sledge hammer to crack a nut” comes to mind.
The demo came from our friends in Palo Alto, who once (boldly but incorrectly!) predicted that “Cisco UCS would be dead a year after launch”. They gave a SDN-focused demo that, when I “peeled back the onion”, didn’t demonstrate a compelling SDN use case. Rather, it convinced me that if you have this particular problem as illustrated in their demo, you don’t need SDN: you need a new vendor!
It's the Season 3 Grand Finale of Engineers Unplugged! Today's guests, Joe Onisick and Nils Swart, take on Application Affinity: how to bridge the network world and the application world. Is it possible to remove the complexity to speed adoption? Watch and see:
Welcome to Engineers Unplugged, where technologists talk to each other the way they know best, with a whiteboard. The rules are simple:
Episodes will publish weekly (or as close to it as we can manage)
VMware launched NSX, its Network Virtualization platform at VMworld last week. In his keynote, VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger portrayed Network Virtualization as a very natural extension to what VMware accomplished in Server Virtualization. However market fundamentals and early drivers for Server Virtualization are not quite the same as Network Virtualization. Hence any comparison and contrast between the two should be understood and weighed on in their respective contexts.
The drive for Server Virtualization fundamentally was an attempt to address the growing gulf between faster rate of technology advancement in server space relative to customer ability to utilize the excess capacity. It was a trend that was driven by the focus towards gaining efficiency in an era where cost was becoming important. Over nearly a decade now Server Virtualization has accomplished this goal of better utilization of assets: And server utilization levels have increased by a factor of 4 over the years.
Networks in the data centers today however do not suffer from this excess capacity problem. If any, the problem is the reverse – user demand for networks capacity continues to outpace what is currently available. As long as there remains a growing gulf between user expectations for capacity relative to technology advancement there will remain opportunity for vendors to innovate in this space. In other words unlike the server world, network virtualization does not shift the value away from the underlying infrastructure.
Server Virtualization is transforming IT by providing greater business agility. Goal of Network Virtualization should be to bring similar business agility for the network. However, this goal need not require complete decoupling of the virtual network from underlying physical network as some vendors may lead you to believe. Any goal of gaining agility by completely decoupling physical and virtual network can only be done with some confidence, by significant under-provisioning of the physical network. For if the bandwidth is plenty the overlays have less dependency on understanding or integrating with the underlying infrastructure. This shortsighted approach, which focuses on business agility, but ignores business assurance, will increase the network capital expenditure and operating expense spend over time. Note that even in the server world where compute efficiency was attained, the benefit did not come at any capex or opex savings. Capex savings attained on server hardware was offset by increased cost of virtualization software. And we have seen opex continues to increase over the last decade.
As IT increasingly begins to take on a service centric view, more intelligence will be needed at the edge – physical or virtual edge. Cisco’s launch of Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA) last July, address this view of an optimized fabric infrastructure with a more intelligent network edge that can enable any network anywhere, supporting transparent mobility for physical servers and virtual machines. Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) takes this a step further by enabling application-driven policy automation, management and visibility of physical and virtual networks. They however also integrate the physical and the virtual network for an agile service delivery that also assures full lifecycle user experience.