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Final Thoughts on the Open Networking Summit

April 30, 2012 at 12:36 am PST

So, some closing thoughts on ONS.  I know its a bit late, but hey, when you’re out of the office for a few days, things pile up a bit--overall, I think the ONF folks did a fine job with the event.

As I look back at ONS, I am reminded of one of my favorite IT quotes, courtesy of Bill Gates:

We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten

Long-term, I think SDN or the concepts it represents will certainly have a hand in shaping how we do networking a decade for now--how we get there and what that destination really looks like is a bit less certain.

First, I think we are early enough in the game that the technology is far from unsettled:

  • Most folks are shipping 1.0 code, either literally or figuratively, and I am betting there are unseen technologies in the wings that will help shape things and I am sure folks will find interesting ways to also repurpose existing technology
  • We can pretty much expect some wave of M&A to help shape the vendor and technology landscape
  • As I have noted before, there is a lot of dogma about what SDN is right now that is not helpful, but I also believe it will eventually fall by the wayside

Eventually the market will sort this stuff out, and a handful of organizations are in a position to drive their own solutions, but for regular folks, I think there is enough near-term uncertainty here that it will give people pause--both in terms of customer adoption as well as ecosystem investment.

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Open Networking Summit, Day 1

April 17, 2012 at 9:47 am PST

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.

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More Musings on SDN and OpenFlow

April 16, 2012 at 10:38 am PST

Just in time for the Open Networking Summit, we are ready to tease a bit more of what we are doing on the Software Defined Networking front. David Ward has posted some really intriguing musings on SDN.  Its a really good read and it should give you some hints on our thinking not the topic.  If you don’t know David, he is über smart and quite entertaining--he is also the current chair of the Technical Advisory group at ONF, so he knows of what he speaks.

For those of you at ONS this week, David will be speaking on a panel on Wednesday @ 2pm.

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