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Posts Tagged ‘software-defined networks’

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.

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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.

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Well, it’s hard to believe but the year is almost up and there are only a mere couple of weeks until we ring in the New Year. So that makes it prediction time for us industry analysts and I’d like to share mine with you. So, drum roll please…

  • 2013 will not be the year of Software Defined Networks. The media hype around SDNs is at an all-time high. However, contrary to some of the predictions I’ve seen, 2013 will not be the year of the SDN as most enterprise network managers are trying to figure out what exactly SDNs are and how they can leverage them. The notion that a technology with such a big architectural difference from the status quo could have rapid uptake is as ridiculous as thinking that Mark Sanchez might actually make a good QB one day. I predict that 2013 will be the year of SDN research, and we’ll start to see some best practices developed and some case studies created.
  • The Application Delivery Controller (ADC) will become part of SDN architecture. I’ve never really liked the term “software” defined networks because software shouldn’t define anything. Software can reconfigure the network, but applications should define it. If that’s the case, what network device has the most knowledge of applications? The ADC does and that’s why the ADC either needs to pass along application information to the controller or actually take on controller functionality. Either way, we’ll see market leader F5 and its band of competitors become relevant to SDNs.
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This week Extreme Networks joined the list of vendors that have unveil their software defined networking (SDN) strategies. In my opinion, it’s one of the better SDN announcements in that it was both broad and deep, highlighting some of Extreme’s long-standing strengths.

One of the fundamental tenets of an SDN is that it enables programmability of the network. Accomplishing network programmability across its product line was relatively easy for Extreme as its XOS operating system has had a high degree of programmability for years now. I remember talking to Extreme about “programmability” about five years ago, but there was little interest in it then. The company had a few strong proof points but the interest certainly wasn’t near what it is today.

Specifically, what the company announced was support for multiple OpenFlow controllers, including NEC and BigSwitch. Additionally, Extreme announced a Quantum API-based plug-in for OpenStack. The combination gives developers, cloud providers and others interested in SDN a number of programmability options, including APIs, SDKs as well as a handful of Extreme-designed, purpose-built applications.

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There was no hotter topic at Cisco Live 2012 than software defined networks (SDN). The industry has been talking about the concept of SDN for a couple of years now but customer interest in it seems to be at an all-time high. Many of the primary network vendors have outlined their SDN strategy and Cisco used its user event, Cisco Live, to outline its strategy.

At the conference the company announced Open Network Environment (ONE), its approach to network programmability. Cisco ONE is similar to other SDN announcements I’ve seen over the past several months but broader than most. The focus from most in the industry has been on the control plane and data plane. Cisco’s ONE solution is a combination of agents, APIs, controllers and overlay technologies to bring programmability to each layer of the network stack. Cisco ONE starts at the transport layer and extends through the management and orchestration layer. This approach allows Cisco to bring a high level of programmability to the network with or without OpenFlow, and with a high level of customization.

Cisco ONE includes a software developer kit, One Platform Kit (OnePK), which brings programmability across Cisco’s switch and routing operating systems, including IOS, IOS-XR and NX-OS.

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