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Some Afterthoughts on Open Network Environment, SDN and Overlay Networks

After our Open Network Environment (Cisco ONE) announcement at Cisco live!, where we unveiled our strategy for network programmability, Jim Duffy at NetworkWorld had a very interesting article that asks a key question, “What are the killer apps for software defined networks?” While SDN technology is very exciting and holds a great deal of promise, the answer to that question will ultimately determine how quickly it is adopted and by who. The consensus is that network virtualization or virtual network overlays are one of the early killer apps that software defined networks can certainly enable (when coupled with other technologies), which is exactly why Cisco made virtual overlays one of the three solution pillars of its ONE announcement. As I mentioned in my TechwiseTV video on virtual overlays, the primary use case for SDN/OpenFlow research in universities is also campus network slicing or creating virtual network partitions for test and production environments, e.g., to share a physical network. As noted in Duffy’s article, virtual overlays can be done with or without OpenFlow.

Open Network EnvironmentIn the aftermath of a major launch, after reading the press and analyst coverage of the news, I always ask what we could have made clearer, what could have been highlighted better, or how could we have made the complexity of some of the details easier to understand. One such point that probably could have been clarified is just how “open” the Open Network Environment (what’s in a name anyway?). Specifically, regarding our Nexus 1000V virtual overlay framework, there were some comments and questions about how open and interoperable this overlay framework was, especially compared to other vendors touting programmable overlays. One financial analyst firm even stated that our overlay networks had some great advantages, but only worked with Cisco switches.  Read More »

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2010+ networking software: how to open up, how to speed new ideas to market

The onePK announcement Ric describes in the previous blog entry is game changing. It also intersects a trend which has gone fairly unnoticed in the networking standards areas. The importance of new standards is declining relative to advances in software and hardware. Read More »

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Nexus 1000V and Virtual Network Overlays Play Pivotal Role in Software Defined Networks

There’s an incredible amount of hype and excitement these days around Software Defined Networking (SDN), which promises to herald in a new age of flexibility, business agility and automation to our existing data center and campus networks. Since there are very few, if any, SDN networks in production environments today, though, we know there are a lot of implementation details to work out before the industry achieves the lofty benefits of network programmability. Cisco opened its kimono this week on its strategy around programmable networks (an even broader concept than what we believe the traditional definition of SDN is), called Cisco Open Network Environment. (Get Omar’s take on Cisco ONE).

Open Network EnvironmentIf you are like a lot of people, you might think that SDN is synonymous with OpenFlow, the leading standards-based approach for SDN today. However, we are already seeing folks across the industry extending the SDN vision beyond what OpenFlow is currently envisioned to do, so we think the definition of SDN will probably evolve over the next year or so to include additional programming models and protocols. Cisco ONE, for example, includes three approaches to network programmability: 1) our own onePK set of API’s to Cisco network operation systems and devices, 2) a portfolio of agents and controllers that will support OpenFlow, among other things, and 3) our Nexus 1000V-based portfolio for building virtual network overlays.

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An Operational Simplification Race is on to Displace CLI

“Boiled frog syndrome” refers to a fable that when you put a frog in hot water, it jumps out.  However if you slowly heat up the water the frog is in, the frog will cook.

The number of features and associated CLI for networking equipment has increased gradually over the last 15+ years.  Each feature is valuable in its own right, but the weight of all CLIs, all OSs, and all variations of deployment cannot be internalized by any human.  The result: the concept of the über-CCIE is cooked.

The question is what displaces the CLI over time?  It is argued by “good enough” network vendors that this complexity isn’t necessary.  But considering most networking costs are operational costs, this argument can generally be discarded.

More articulate arguments are made by people who want to simplify overall network operations activities versus concentrating upon enhancements to CLI.   Businesses don’t want to manage individual boxes; they would love to shed this complexity.  Instead they would rather express their operational intents to their network, and let the network itself sort any box specific details.

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Unfiltered & Out Loud: Meet, Discuss & Debate with the “Big Brains” Inside Cisco

Welcome to our new blog, Architect & DE Discussions, where you can hear from (and yes, discuss and debate) the architects and distinguished engineers behind some of Cisco’s top technologies. As we move forward into Cisco Live San Diego next week and open up a new chapter of software innovation, one of the key areas we’d like you to hear about and provide feedback on is what we’re thinking about inside of Cisco.

We’re getting back to basics: the technology and what’s really behind it, but also future technologies and how we think they might impact the industry, or multiple industries. From what’s next inside IOS to how SDN goes to market first (wait, is SDN an architecture, or a solution, or.. ?) and yes, even OpenFlow, this is the place to hear it first.

This isn’t a blog where you’ll find marketing-speak or any lingo. This is a blog where you can actually hear directly from top engineers and architects driving not only the current but future technologies inside of Cisco. We’d love your feedback and strongly encourage participation and discussion. Do we always know what’s right? Absolutely not, but sometimes we understand the hard questions fairly early on.  By sharing these questions and possible outcomes we would love to have a dialog with you on where you think the industry is moving as well and also what you’d like to see from Cisco. Read More »

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