Fear and Networking in Las Vegas (Interop Thoughts Part 1)

I’m here in Las Vegas wrapping up Interop 2012. I now understand why Hunter S. Thompson binged on alcohol and narcotics when visiting this town — you need these substances to create the illusion that this town is the least bit palatable.

Aside from the Sin City aspect, Interop was eventful and the industry seems to be in good shape. A few thoughts:

  1. Cisco SDN. Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior stunned the audience when she mentioned in her keynote that Cisco has been delivering Software-defined Networking for 3 years. Hmm, perhaps this is a bit of a stretch, but Warrior also provided a hint around the Cisco/Insieme roadmap when she pre-announced a new initiative called the Cisco Open Programmable Environment (COPE, very clever). Now I know others will write this off as Cisco spin but not me. SDN is inevitable but that doesn’t mean that OpenFlow and a bunch of venture-backed start-ups will take over the world. Enterprises want SDN orchestration and flexibility but they have no intent to throw the Cisco Nexus/Catalyst baby out with the SDN bath water. Cisco knows it has this advantage but also recognizes the software opportunity SDN presents moving forward. I hear that Cisco will provide more details at its customer event next month. With one word (COPE) in one sentence, Cisco’s CTO introduced a dose of sobriety into the SDN/OpenFlow party.
  2. A refreshing meeting with Huawei. ESG networking guru, Bob Laliberte, and I met with Huawei to discuss the company’s entrance into the North American market. Huawei was everywhere at Interop and clearly spent a lot of dough to show the market that it is serious about competing. I expected to hear nothing but bravado from Huawei about its success in emerging markets, its rich resources, its product portfolio, etc. Instead, the meeting featured nothing but reality and humility. Huawei will focus first on financially-challenged/low regulation industries that need enterprise-class low-priced alternatives to Cisco. When I asked them how they would address American buyer’s security concerns they admitted that this was the biggest challenge they faced. Huawei also mentioned that it will add developers in the US to customize its product for the local market. So Huawei is really looking for business and technical entry points as a foot-in-the-door and is willing to be patient and build from there. I’m not sure how successful Huawei will be in the good-old USA, but at least it has an intelligent go-to-market plan.
  3. BYOD hype and reality. This topic has become prolific in the tech industry and most of the discussion was pretty opaque. I was encouraged by meetings with Cisco, Enterasys, and Juniper Networks who look at BYOD from a multitude of angles including policy, network access control, device controls, security, network traffic, etc. In my humble opinion, BYOD isn’t about iPads and Androids, it’s about providing new tools for employee productivity while addressing any added risk. These companies get this.
  4. Cloud and networking. This goes hand-in-hand with SDN as everyone realizes that the network (L2/L3) and network services (L4-L7) must be available in both physical and virtual form factors. I’d give the industry a B+ for creating technologies for this transition. Unfortunately, the industry would receive a grade of D for educating IT professionals on how to progress through this transition. We need to focus less on Silicon and more on Carbon here as overwhelmed IT professionals need guidance, support, and lots of help.

More tomorrow when I’m far away from this awful place.

Topics: IT Infrastructure Networking