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AI World Conference & Expo · Boston, MA · December 11-13, 2017

Posts Tagged ‘SDN’

For decades now, Cisco has been the single biggest factor in driving network change. Over the years, the company has been aggressive with VoIP, PoE, MPLS, wireless LAN and most recently converged infrastructure, and has gained a significant early-move advantage. However, when it comes to software-defined networks, I think it’s fair to say that Cisco has lagged in both technology and vision, and has let the likes of VMware, Arista and Big Switch get out in front and carry much of the messaging.

Yesterday though, CEO John Chambers effectively grabbed the throats of many of the smaller, SDN pure-plays, and stated “Where are your rebel friends now?” at the company’s Application Centric Infrastructure event in New York. Specifically, the company, to no surprise, announced at the event that it was acquiring the remained of spin-in Insieme following a similar path to what we saw with Nuova and Andiamo, and went through its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) vision.

Getting into the details, ACI is certainly a bold vision for the industry. It promises a unified, single point of control and visibility for the management and provisioning of virtual and physical infrastructure. This would mean networking, compute, storage, virtual machines, application services and security all manage a single entity.

One of the primary value propositions of Software Defined Networks (SDNs) is that it optimizes the performance of the applications that run on networks today. However, almost all of the SDN-related products that have been released to date operate at layer 2/3 which, of course, have no direct relevance to applications. I agree that if there’s congestion or something else impacting performance at those lower layers, applications themselves will be impacted, but for the most part, the world of applications and networks have been managed in independent silos.

To help bridge this gap between applications and networks, many network managers, data center folks and even some application developers have turned to application delivery controllers (ADCs). The ADC speaks both the language of networks and applications and can be thought of as the “Rosetta stone” of IT, and plays a key role in enterprises’ ability to roll out applications rapidly and keep them performing optimally.

However, SDNs have recently turned the networking world upside down. Things that were physical are now software-based and virtual. Networking has a level of dynamism that has never been seen before. This trend has raised the question of what the role of the ADC is in this new virtual, software-driven world.

On September 25th, Brocade held its annual “Tech Day” conference. This yearly event is normally a pretty geeky show where the company talks about things like Ethernet Fabrics, software defined networks (SDNs), and other exciting topics like the transition from 16 Gig to 32 Gig FibreChannel. This year’s conference included its fair share of geek talk, but new CEO Lloyd Carney did take the time to give an update to the business and talk about the market at a high level.

There were several underlying themes to Mr. Carney’s keynote, but the main, high-level theme was focusing the company. Historically, Brocade has played in many markets across both the enterprise and service provider landscapes, particularly with its IP portfolio. Moving forward, the company will channel its resources almost exclusively into building products that can accelerate the transformation of the data center.

For many reasons, I think this is the right decision for the company. First, the data center is where the action is. Last month, I got the results back from a joint ZK Research/Tech Target Network Purchase Intention Study that indicated that the momentum we saw in the data center last year would continue into this year. Data center and wireless LAN were, by far, the two highest-rated networking initiatives for the upcoming year. Virtualization, SDNs and cloud computing have forever changed the data center network, and it’s this change that gives Brocade a shot at taking some share. One the principles by which I conduct my research is that significant share shift only occurs at points of market transition, and the data center is going through more transition today than it has in decades.

It seems we can’t go more than a couple of weeks without someone making another product announcement related to software defined networks (SDNs). A couple of weeks ago, VMware announced its NSX network virtualization platform at its user conference, VMworld. Along with the platform, VMware highlighted a number of NSX partners, one of which was Juniper Networks.

This week, Juniper took the covers off it’s own SDN controller by announcing the general availability of its Contrail controller. While Juniper’s vision matches that of VMware’s software defined data center, the approach from Juniper is markedly different than that of VMware. In addition to being a direct competitor to NSX, the Contrail controller is a completely standards-based controller that uses OpenStack as the orchestration protocol, whereas NSX is more of a proprietary platform meant for VMware-only environments.

It’s the end of August, which means “Tis the season.” What season is that? It’s now the end of the summer, which means back to school for our kids. It’s also NFL preseason, so all of us going through football withdrawal are close to getting some real football soon – time for Tebow mania, the football equivalent of SDNs. But, for those of us in tech, the end of August means VMworld time. For me, it means my email inbox is full of messages from PR vendors wanting me to “stop by the booth” and check out the latest and greatest.

This week, Arista and ExtraHop got out in front of the impending noise and announced a strategic partnership between to deliver an integrated solution called the ExtraHop-Arista Persistent Monitoring Architecture. Despite the totally unimaginative name, the product should be compelling to highly virtualized organizations or those considering a move to a software defined data center – the obvious sweet spot for VMworld.

It’s hard to look at Network World or any other tech site without seeing a bunch of articles on software defined networks. Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen almost every network vendor, large and small, lay out its vision for SDNs and then back it up with new products to support the vision. One of the vendors that has been absent from the SDN tournament, though, is Huawei – that is, until this week.

Earlier this week, the giant Chinese equipment manufacturer threw its hat into the SDN game with a new switch series, the S12700 Agile Switch, specifically designed for migrating to an SDN. There are two products currently in the Agile Switch line – a big one (S12708) and a bigger one (S12712). From my briefing with Huawei, it appears that these products will be focused on implementing SDNs across the campus network rather than the data center.

In networking, there’s no hotter place to be than in the data center. We’ve seen many of the traditional vendors attacking this marketing with bigger, faster and denser core switches, each trying to one-up the other. However, the startup activity has been at the top of rack (ToR) as these new companies are trying to disrupt the status quo with software-based solutions. Not software combined with hardware, but software running on an off-the-shelf switch from one of the many ODMs that are out there.

This week, Cumulus Networks came out of hiding with its Linux-based operating system designed for data centers where programmability is the differentiator. Cumulus, like other ToR vendors that came before it, such as Pica8, Plexxi and Pluribus, uses a “white box” and dedicates all of its development energy on software, leaving the hardware design to the guys who can do it faster and cheaper than a startup could.



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