Published: February 7, 2012
Is it too early or too late to declare 2012 the year of SDN? A few weeks ago, IBM and NEC introduced integrated technologies around OpenFlow for enterprise data centers. Last week, HP announced OpenFlow support with 16 switch models. Finally, early this week, Nicira went public with its Distributed Virtual Network Infrastructure (DVNI).
Now I'm a cynic by nature but there seems to be a fundamental transformation in progress here. Why? Because legacy data center networking equipment and operational processes are a mismatch for massive data center scale and dynamic cloud computing applications. ESG calls this imbalance data center networking discontinuity. The solution to this problem is fairly logical: Cloud platforms and server virtualization use software to turn hardware into a virtual platform. SDN, OpenFlow, DVNI, and even VMware VXLAN take the same approach.
To paraphrase the Monkees, I'm an SDN believer. Networks have to become virtual platforms that gracefully interoperate with cloud platforms like OpenStack. Provisioning new devices needs to be based upon a standard policy-based publish-and-subscribe model. Traffic engineering and security rules need drag-and-drop simplicity.
Pressing requirements, wide SDN adoption across the industry, and a new wave of engineering innovation will lead to an accelerated technology refresh cycle over the next few years. Yes, this has the potential to impact the networking status quo but I am reluctant to include hyperbolic terms like "game-changer" and "revolutionary" into my analysis for several reasons:
The SDN market is very exciting but remains immature. I have no doubt that enterprise data center networks circa 2017 will look very different from the device-centric, manual process-driven model of today. How we get from here to there is a bit more difficult to forecast.
You can read Jon's other blog entries at Insecure About Security.
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