Posts Tagged ‘Software-Defined Networking’

It’s hard to believe, but we’re almost at the end of 2012, which means it’s time to look ahead towards 2013. I wrote a predictions blog earlier that looked at a few trends, but I think there are a handful of companies worth watching next year. As you can imagine, some of them are smaller startups, but some are more established companies.

Magor

Located in Kanata, Ottawa, Magor doesn’t get nearly the same level of media coverage as the louder, more brash Vidyo, but the Magor solution is every bit as game changing, in many ways more so. Magor leverages the flexibility of SVC, desktop sharing and UC to create a unique collaborative environment. Anyone I’ve talked to who has used the solution based on “visual conversations” loves it. Magor’s challenge for 2013 is to raise the level of awareness so people don’t say “who?” when I ask them if they’ve tried the solution.

Most of the focus of software-defined networks (SDNs) has been on how it impacts the layer 2/3 switch vendors. The industry seems to have moved off of this notion that it commoditizes the underlying infrastructure, but recently another question has come up. Big Switch recently launched the company and related products, one of which is called “Big Tap,” that provide traffic visibility functionality similar to what one might get from vendors such as Gigamon and VSS. This has raised a question: are SDNs a death knell to the traffic visibility vendors?

I looked at this and then talked to a number of customers, including Big Switch, and I believe the information that one can get out of an SDN-led product to be very much complementary to the traffic visibility market, not competitive. Think of “Big Tap” as being traffic visibility light where they provide a very basic level of information. The level of information that one gets from the dedicated vendors is much richer and more granular than what one would get from Big Tap.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post defining what “open networking” really meant and how it should be defined. On Monday morning, one of the companies I mentioned in the blog, Pica8, announced its vision and reference architecture for software defined networks (SDNs). While I believe that we’re very early in the cycle for SDNs and most enterprises will look for fully integrated, complete solutions, large, network-centric enterprises, cloud providers and service providers will lean towards open, agile platforms to create competitive differentiation.

Pica8’s solution is designed to be a network development platform for cloud providers and includes a physical switch with an integrated hypervisor virtual switch and an SDN controller using OpenFlow 1.2 as the communications protocol between all of the components of the solution. The Pica8 PicOS operating system utilizes both the Open vSwitch 1.7.1 with OpenStack and the above mentioned OpenFlow 1.2 protocol and integrates with the Ryu controller designed by NTT, specifically for cloud providers.

For decades, networks have been built on closed, proprietary infrastructure. It’s what’s allowed vendors to create unique features and differentiate themselves. Those features are what have enabled the networks to be as reliable, secure and resilient as they have been in the past. However, over the past couple of years it seems that “open” has become the new black when it comes to network infrastructure and every major vendor now has some degree of openness, although may not be 100% open (I’ll define later). Recently, though, I ran across a startup called Pica8 that is, by far, the most open networking vendor that I have seen to date.

Before I get into the specifics of Pica8, let me define why open networking has become all the rage and what it actually means.

Extreme Networks took advantage of the media frenzy caused by the Big Switch launch to announce an upgrade to its SDN strategy yesterday. Previously, Extreme had unveiled the behemoth of a switch, the Black Diamond X8, to be the centerpiece of its SDN and network fabric strategy. Early feedback from Extreme customers has been more than positive, as the product appears to perform as advertised in the most demanding environments.

This morning, SDN startup Big Switch unveiled its strategy to end what might be the worst job of being in stealth mode in the history of networking. I’m not sure that anyone in the networking industry wasn’t at least partially aware of what Big Switch was doing. However, there were gaps in my and others’ knowledge, so today’s announcement clarifies the strategy. It certainly lived up to the hype, which isn’t easy considering the publicity surrounding SDNs since VMware’s acquisition of Nicira.

I was half expecting a “me too” announcement from Big Switch to announce a controller and then ride on the coat tails of VMware/Nicira, but the company announcements were differentiated from the rest of the field and from what my expectations were. Here are the highlights of the announcement:

This morning Brocade announced it would acquire privately held open source networking software company Vyatta. The rise of software defined networks seems to be a legitimate problem the Vyatta solution can solve. Founded back in 2005, Vyatta has struggled to find a use case for its virtual routing capabilities over the years, remaining a niche company used by network engineers who like to experiment on the network. I’ve always said the branch router segment of Cisco’s business might be the most difficult market share to cut into, as the Integrated Services Router (ISR) is the de facto standard branch router.



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