This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala's blog.
In theory, software defined networks (SDN) are this generation’s next “big thing” in networking. The promise of SDNs is to decouple the tight linkage between the physical infrastructure and the software running the network. This can help cloud providers manage their networks better, allow for true multi-tenant networking and aid in the movement of virtual machines. It’s so hot right now that almost every mainstream network vendor has an SDN strategy, as has given rise to many startups.
So let’s assume that SDNs are definitely that next big thing. What’s a network manager to do? It seems that every vendor has a slightly different approach regarding how to build an SDN. The market is a little like the LAN market was in the early days, when everyone knew the market was moving to network systems but network managers had to choose between different LAN protocols like Banyan Vines, IP, IPX, Apple Talk and a host of others. Ultimately what happened was this smart company named Cisco came around and developed network infrastructure that could handle all of these protocols. This allowed customers to pick the protocol they wanted to use and then, if they had to use another, the Cisco infrastructure would allow for the Interoperability.
Arista Networks is doing something similar by using their operating system, EOS (Extensible Operating System), to offer SDN support for a number of different vendors. Currently, Arista can interoperate with VMware’s SDN controller, Nebula’s OpenStack implementation and Big Switch’s Open Flow controller.
These partnerships work because of the programmability of Arista’s EOS and enable all three of the above controllers to program and manage Arista switches. Arista will focus on four areas for cloud SDNs that include:
- Multipath cloud architectures based on EOS and network features such as MLAG and TRILL
- Distributed cloud control driven by features of EOS such as zero-touch provisioning and event management
- Network-wide virtualization, which is one of the bigger drivers of SDN
- Single point management through its open APIs
Arista will apparently be demonstrating all of this at Interop this year, so I’m looking forward to seeing how seamless all of this is. As an aside, remember when the primary focus at Interop was interoperability? Maybe SDN will cause Interop to go back to its roots and do more testing and demos like this.
As far as Arista goes, I think this is great proof point as to why network programmability matters today. This should allow network managers to get more aggressive with SDN without having to worry about long-term vendor lock in.