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Is Software Defined Networking (SDN) a journey to somewhere?

Not One-size-fits-all

In the world of fashion, one-size-fits all has very limited appeal. People come in all shapes and sizes, with tastes, preferences, and needs that are equally diverse. So too are the diverse approaches and use cases that are driving interest in Software Defined Networking (SDN), automation, simplification, orchestration, and other solutions. Service providers are exploring technologies for more efficient, flexible, and cost-efficient network operations that will in turn make their businesses more agile and competitive.

Last year at Cisco Live in San Diego, Cisco introduced a broad vision and strategy  ̶  The Cisco Open Network Environment  ̶  an evolutionary approach that not only includes SDN but also encompasses an array of solutions, products, and technologies that are applicable to most, if not all, use cases that are much broader than what SDN alone could address. Since then, as part of our “Build, Buy, and Partner” strategy, we have announced newly developed technologies and products accompanied by strategic company acquisitions that add tools to enhance visibility, orchestration, programmability, and other capabilities to Cisco offerings.

At the end of January at Cisco Live in London 2013, we discussed a variety of solutions that we are working on with service providers to start their journey toward making their networks more programmable. From custom routing and traffic processing, to security applications and automation of fulfillment and assurance, here are just a few of the use cases explored and implemented by early adopters of our technologies that were discussed: Read More »

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Five Cool Router Tricks with onePK

Network Management is dull.  No excuses.  Monitoring and interacting with the devices that move data from one location to another is a thankless undertaking that most of us building networks leave to an afterthought.  Part of that is the complexity associated with managing networks.  There are at least a dozen common methods for interacting with devices in the network including SNMP, CLI, AAA, Syslog, Netflow, and fancy XML/HTTP interfaces.  So much variety breeds complexity so we tend to set our goals pretty low for interactivity with the network.

What if we had one common mechanism for interacting with the network?  Different devices running different software would all speak a common language to the applications managing and monitoring them.  Now what if that language was something the programmers writing those applications understood implicitly like an API library they could compile directly into their program?  That would make interacting with the network as simple as making a procedure call within the application.  That’s exactly what onePK – or the “one Platform Kit” – accomplishes.

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In Amsterdam, a ‘Cloudy’ Forecast for Broadband

By Uwe Lambrette, Director, Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group

Amsterdam may be the one place on earth where it rains more than it does in London. So, it was no surprise that I encountered stormy weather on my flight to Broadband World Forum (BBWF) 2012. As things turned out, the conference theme and the weather were clearly aligned, since the BBWF is fiercely embracing evolution to cloud. Here are some core themes that emerged as I shared some of Cisco IBSG’s findings at the conference:

Cloud 2.0: Most service providers (SPs) have already launched an initial cloud offering and are now beginning to measure scaling and growth. The initial offering is often a stand-alone cloud solution, typically focused on infrastructure as a service (IaaS). Once their original implementation goes live, SPs often need to focus on the following improvements: Read More »

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VMware’s SDN Strategy is No Threat to Cisco, says Mike Fratto

August 8, 2012 at 8:30 am PST

For those of you wondering about the impact to Cisco of Software Defined Networking and the combined SDN strategy of VMware and Nicira, I point you to a very rational and well-articulated article by Mike Fratto of Network Computing, that basically says Cisco doesn’t have much to worry about. (Enterprise Strategy Group had already said something similar, by the way).

Specifically, Fratto says:

Mike FrattoThe lack of programmability in existing networking hardware is certainly a problem, but VMware’s acquisition of Nicira does not mean that Cisco and its ilk will be marginalized… It does mean the role and management of the physical network is changing, and I think Cisco is further ahead than most of its competitors in creating a vision for the next phase of networking.

I couldn’t agree more. Since Cisco live! when we announced our Cisco ONE strategy for network programmability as well as the advances in our Nexus 1000V portfolio for virtual network overlays, I have been posting on many of the same points.

My take here was that the VMware-Nicira acquisition did not portend a strategic break with Cisco, and while there are some obvious overlaps in our product lines, there are still a number of areas of collaboration, cooperation and interoperability. The virtual network infrastructure is just one piece of a larger software stack and the differentiation will likely be decided in the orchestration, management and applications built on top of the newly programmable infrastructures sometime down the road. Read More »

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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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