This article was originally written by Mat Mathews at the Plexxi blog.
Last week’s Arista IPO put a spotlight on the current state of the SDN arena. As Scott Raynovich recently reported, there are now 10 software defined networking startups with valuations of over $100 million. With this in mind, it’s clear the industry is set for some definite change. We expand upon this thought below and are excited to see what the future of networking has in store as the SDN “ecosystem” strengthens.
In this week’s PlexxiTube of the week, Dan Backman explains how the fabric control panel works in a pod. The control plane consists of two levels and acts in the same way as it does in a standard solution
According to Scott Raynovich, more than $600 million has been invested in at least two dozen software-defined networking (SDN) startups to date. Scott wrote a piece this week for SDNCentral on the state of the current SDN landscape, and hypothesized what the future of networking may look like. It’s exciting to see so much interest in networking after a relatively dark last decade. The new ideas will only be good for customers because it forces the vendor side to innovate faster (in terms of both technology and business models). The result should be more cost-effective, more capable networks.
The question will be which of these survive though. Not all of this money will pan out into something that is commercially viable. The buying patterns are changing, and this will favor a small number of vendors who are either offering complete solutions or who are a part of some broader solution. The platforms that fit this role will behave differently. It’s going to be a turbulent couple of years!
Earlier this week, Andreas Antonopoulos wrote a piece for SearchSDN on “openness” in software defined networking. The industry dialogue around open is a bit imprecise. Here, the connection is between open and standards and community. But the bulk of community work is happening in open source projects (at least in IT), and that is more about open access than it is about standards. There are at least five different things people mean when they talk about open: interoperability, interchangeability, standards, access, and open source. Each of these has different implications. We should be clear which one is important when evaluating “openness”. My colleague, Mike Bushong, wrote a piece on the subject last year.
Phil Goldstein of Fierce Wireless wrote in response to a Verizon executive concerned with how SDN will impact day to day operations. This gets to the role of integration in SDN. Having a controller or commoditized underlying hardware doesn’t change the reliance on plugging everything into an OSS/BSS system. We should see companies start to incorporate better analytics and monitoring into controllers. It is amazing to me that the major analytics companies haven’t flocked en masse to OpenDaylight as an example. If that platform takes off, you would think that you would want to own the underlying analytics engine. Things like capacity planning, diagnostics, and counters used for billing could all be opened up at the controller level.
It is true that combining SDN with dedicated links helps to maximize storage bandwidth. Jim O’Reilly of Network Computing wrote a piece this week on switched links versus defined networks. Interestingly, this is somewhat solved by some of the optical technologies. The ability to use L1 paths across infrastructure helps to get around some of the static nature of bandwidth. And if you combine dynamic pathing with an SDN controller, you can do things like load balancing, traffic engineering, and dynamic pathing to meet application requirements.
I suspect that the real change that is happening (and has been for a while) is that traffic is far more east-west than north-south at this point. The interconnect is almost more important than the uplinks. We should expect to see this interconnect happen at the rack level before long (big optic pipes between racks of resources). In this world, the traditional architectures get disrupted, along with the ecosystem of suppliers around those.