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SDN Reflections on the London Gartner Data Center Conference – Part 1

December 6, 2013 at 4:58 am PST

Last week I was in London for the Gartner Data Center Conference.  As always there was a wide range of interesting topics being discussed, all very useful.  Working in Cisco Data Center Services, I am interested in many data center topics, however this year I was interested to hear perspectives on SDN, how the market is evolving, and how the attendees -- including many senior IT practitioners -- are considering SDN adoption.

London's Big Ben at Night

London’s Big Ben at Night

From a Cisco perspective, we were showcasing the recently launched Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which generated a lot of interest.  There is growing awareness among our customers that ACI could do for networks and applications what the Cisco UCS has done for the server market (with UCS server profiles in the latter proving a good analogy to help customers understand the potential of ACI).

So what were some of my key takeaways from the SDN discussion I heard here?  And what were the questions that in my view are still not being discussed sufficiently across the industry?

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Autonomic Networking – From Theory to Practice

Autonomic Networking is well understood in theory, but real, consistent and extensible implementations don’t exist. In this post I suggest a reason for the lack in execution, and our vision to provide a working, implementable Autonomic Networking Architecture.

Wipe off the dust…

When asking a researcher about autonomic systems, (s)he might blow the dust off a stack of papers, or proudly pull a couple of old books off his shelf. Or point to IBM’s IEEE paper from 2003. From a research perspective, autonomics is well understood. It’s this self-management thing, with all those self-* properties. Self-configuration and self-optimisation for example. Distribution, control loops, and so on. Even the Wikipedia articles are written. So, we’re done, aren’t we?

No we’re not.

Ask your friendly neighbourhood network engineers about Autonomic Networking. The one that proudly hacks expect scripts at night to make his admin database talk to his routers. Or the front line engineer who applies a network service class to one of his customers. Likely, both of them would look at you with big eyes, and after explaining that the network manages itself, intelligently, you’d hear back: “That’s like Skynet, isn’t it?”

No it’s not. Read More »

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A Software Aware Society Driven by Sensors, Analytics and APIs

1“Software is Eating the World” is a quote attributed to Marc Andreessen and somewhat further explored by his business partner Ben Horowitz.  Mark Andreessen gives compelling reasons to validate this quote.  To some extend I have to agree with some of his reasons (but I am also a little bit biased as a software engineer). On the other hand, when I read this (and this is partly based on working in different domains on software), I wonder if software is that disruptive? If you look “under the hood” of software applications, you find that a lot of software is based on fundamental software principles that are already 20-30 years old, yet Read More »

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A Software Aware Society Driven by Sensors, Analytics and APIs

“Software is Eating the World” is a quote attributed to Marc Andreessen and somewhat further explored by his business partner Ben Horowitz.  Mark Andreessen gives compelling reasons to validate this quote.  To some extend I have to agree with some of his reasons (but I am also a little bit biased as a software engineer). On the other hand, when I read this (and this is partly based on working in different domains on software), I wonder if software is that disruptive. If you look “under the hood” of software applications, you find that a lot of software is based on fundamental software principles that are already 20-30 years old, yet they are still frequently used (and for good reasons).  That does not mean there are no new advances in software, however old and proven technologies still play an important role (like we say in mathematics, it does not become old, it becomes classic).

1So maybe the reason that “Software is Eating the World” is due to the advances in hardware? Would you run modern enterprise applications in the Cloud 20 years ago? One of the challenges could certainly be the bandwidth. Was the IPhone a victory for software or hardware? A lot of the IPhone GUI was not that revolutionary IMO but the combination of hardware and software made for a potent technology disruption.

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Virtualization: Can We Deconstruct the Problem and Opportunity?

This was the title of a November 19 2013 panel that I had moderated in Washington D.C. at the MPLS-SDN Isocore Conference.

The abstract for this conference was designed to be a bit provocative, specifically:

“ Virtualization as a concept is not new. However, in the context of Software Defined Networking,the virtualization discussion has been focusing on overlay functions e.g networking. What about virtualization overlays and interworking with existing architectures?   What are the implications to performance and management?   Are we speaking the same language?

The panelists will have an opportunity to articulate the virtualization problem space for the industry and the opportunity for the industry to address.”

My panelists included the following individuals: Read More »

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