Would SDN, by any other name, still smell as sweet?
Perhaps I’m in the minority that is still frustrated by this, but as a marketing person who is tasked with explaining technology and solutions to customers and prospects, I feel hamstrung by a lack of a widely agreed upon definition of what is and is not “SDN” still. This usually comes up in discussions about our new Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), and how it compares to traditional SDN concepts, as well as alternative approaches, such as overlay networks advocated by VMware.
The topic came up again this with a NetworkWorld article in which the head of VMware’s network virtualization business is now saying, “SDN will never happen” (our rebuttal). Well, what is happening, if it’s not SDN? Or just because the technology has evolved, do we need to create a new term just because some early assumptions the industry made have changed? As we start out a new year, I thought it a good time to try and reframe the definition, and look at how the trends in SDN may be shaping up to extend the concept into new areas.
Why do customers need SDN?
By early 2012, there was so much hype and expectations around Software Defined Networking, focused on the ability to “program” the network, that real customer use cases and the killer SDN app was lost in the conversation. But what slowly emerged, that is driving all the investment, pilots and product designs is a much better way to manage the data center and cloud network, and to automate IT tasks so that the infrastructure could respond dynamically to rapidly changing business conditions and requirements. The “intelligence” to make all that happen is moving from the network devices and device management consoles, to centralized policy-management platforms, orchestration tools and cloud-managers.
What’s caused the biggest evolution in SDN is the realization that very few organizations really have the desire, skills and incentives to write a new class of applications to a published API to program the network. These users are outlying use cases compared to the vast majority of organizations just looking to automate IT tasks, accelerate application deployment, make their cloud networks more flexible, and better align their IT infrastructure with business requirements. The focus has shifted from SDN being an open API/controller platform, to a platform capable of hosting a myriad of orchestration and IT workflow automation solutions that drive customers to their end goal. To that end, ACI is meeting all those objectives, and in more advanced and innovative ways than earlier SDN approaches.
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Tags: ACI, Cisco ONE, Open Daylight, Open Network Environment, OpenFlow, OpenStack, SDN, software defined networking, XNC
My 2014 predictions are finally complete. If Open Source equals collaboration or credibility, 2013 has been nothing short of spectacular. As an eternal optimist, I believe 2014 will be even better:
- Big data’s biggest play will be in meatspace, not cyberspace. There is just so much data we produce and give away, great opportunity for analytics in the real world.
- Privacy and security will become ever more important, particularly using Open Source, not closed. Paradoxically, this is actually good news as Open Source shows us again, transparency wins and just as we see in biological systems, the most robust mechanisms do so with fewer secrets than we think.
- The rise of “fog” computing as a consequence of the Internet of Things (IoT) will unfortunately be driven by fashion for now (wearable computers), it will make us think again what have we done to give up our data and start reading #1 and #2 above with a different and more open mind. Again!
- Virtualization will enter the biggest year yet in networking. Just like the hypervisor rode Moore’s Law in server virtualization and found a neat application in #2 above, a different breed of projects like OpenDaylight will emerge. But the drama is a bit more challenging because the network scales very differently than CPU and memory, it is a much more challenging problem. Thus, networking vendors embracing Open Source may fare well.
- Those that didn’t quite “get” Open Source as the ultimate development model will re-discover it as Inner Source (ACM, April 1999), as the only long-term viable development model. Or so they think, as the glamor of new-style Open Source projects (OpenStack, OpenDaylight, AllSeen) with big budgets, big marketing, big drama, may in fact be too seductive. Only those that truly understand the two key things that make an Open Source project successful will endure.
- AI recently morphed will make a comeback, not just robotics, but something different AI did not anticipate a generation ago, something one calls cognitive computing, perhaps indeed the third era in computing! The story of Watson going beyond obliterating Jeopardy contestants, looking to open up and find commercial applications, is a truly remarkable thing to observe in our lifespan. This may in fact be a much more noble use of big data analytics (and other key Open Source projects) than #1 above. But can it exist without it?
- Finally, Gen Z developers discover Open Source and embrace it just like their Millennials (Gen Y) predecessors. The level of sophistication and interaction rises and projects ranging from Bitcoin to qCraft become intriguing, presenting a different kind of challenge. More importantly, the previous generation can now begin to relax knowing the gap is closing, the ultimate development model is in good hands, and can begin to give back more than ever before. Ah, the beauty of Open Source…
Tags: ai, AllSeen, big data analytics, Cloud Computing, cognitive computing, cyberspace, Fog computing, hypervisor, Inner Source, internet of things, IoT, meatspace, NFV, Open, open source, opendaylight, OpenStack, privacy, qCraft, robotics, SDN, security, transparency, virtualization
In a January 13, 2014 NetworkWorld article, VMware executive, Steve Mullaney, compared VMware NSX to Cisco ACI and other SDN architectures. Cisco’s Frank D’Agostino replied to those assertions in the comments section of the article. Frank’s points are abbreviated and summarized here:
1. VMware pricing model is fundamentally flawed, which is raising OpEx costs, and affecting network design decisions and scale.
VMware is charging customers per-port, per-VM, and increases the cost of networking by 2x or more, while providing lower functionality, increasing operations expense, and forcing you to adopt a different network architecture. ACI delivers more functionality with zero VM tax.
For VMware, our customers consistently report pricing starting at $50 or more per VM per month. In competitive engagements, pricing rapidly declines to $15 per VM per month, then lower depending on the negotiation. Customers do not like the per port pricing, the same as they do not like per VM pricing. All of those models get expensive and alter your designs and scale considerations.
2. Claims that ACI is a proprietary platform or policy model belies the fact that many aspects of VMware’s architecture require vendor lock-in, on top of the premium pricing model.
VMware claims that ACI is proprietary. Yet customers have to get their OVS from VMware not the open switch download, under open source license. Currently, VMware is the only hypervisor platform that locks customers into a proprietary controller -- RedHat, KVM, and Hyper-V all provide open access. ACI contributions are showing up in OpenStack, IETF drafts, and through VXLAN extensions, and is providing the most open implementation in the industry -- API’s, data model, and integration with 3rd party controllers. Federating NSX with 3rd party controllers, such as HP, is different that providing open, bi-directional programmability.
3. Openness is really measured by the breadth of infrastructures, OS platforms, orchestration models, etc., that are supported by the policy model, and ACI is rapidly outdistancing NSX in this area.
ACI supports any hypervisor, any encapsulation (VXLAN, NVGRE, VLAN, and even STT), any physical platform, storage, physical compute, layer 4 through 7, WAN, with full flexibility of any workload anywhere, with full policy, performance, and visibility in hardware. ACI supports Open vSwitch and allows a 3rd party controller to program ACI hardware components. Investment protection is built in supporting existing platforms, and within the Nexus 9000 products enabling you to run enhanced NXOS and ACI mode with a software upgrade.
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Tags: ACI, application centric infrastructure, NSX, SDN, software defined networking
More and more enterprises are managing distributed infrastructures and applications that need to share data. This data sharing can be viewed as data flows that connect (and flow through) multiple applications. Applications are partly managed on-premise, and partly in (multiple) off-premise clouds.
With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) the need to share data between applications, sensors, infrastructure and people (specifically on the edge) will only increase. This raises fundamental questions on how we develop scalable distributed systems: How to manage the flow of events (data flows)? How to facilitate a frictionless integration of new components into the distributed systems and the various data flows in a scalable manner? What primitives do we need, to support the variety of protocols? Read More »
Tags: Amazon Cloud Connector, internet of things, SDN, Service Provider
Tuesday of CiscoLive Milan (#CLEUR for the Twitter among you) the keynotes will be wall to wall Rob with Rob Lloyd at 9:30 followed by Rob Soderbery at 11:15. These should be pretty interesting and give you a good foundation to where Cisco is headed overall and specifically in our core networking.
Opening Keynote with Rob Lloyd,President of Development and Sales, Cisco
Tuesday, Jan 28, 9:30 – 10:45AM
Hear from Rob Lloyd on how Cisco and the ecosystem of Cisco’s partners are uniquely positioned to connect the unconnected with an open standard and an integrated architecture from the cloud to end devices. Rob will share his vision of the Internet of Everything and examine the industry trends and technologies that are making that vision a reality.
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Tags: #CLEUR, byod, Cisco, cisco live, enterprise networks, IWAN, SDN