The Temperature is Rising in the SDN Market

Sep 25, 2012

I recently attended a Cisco webinar on Software Defined Networking (SDN), which has become a very hot topic in the industry after VMware announced its acquisition of Nicira.

Many believed this new technology would make Cisco nervous.  It made for a good sound bite, but I guess I just wasn’t very hungry…

This webinar actually made me realize that Cisco isn’t worried.  They are Cisco after all.  As such, they have their own views (and extensive experience) on how networking and network virtualization should be done.  The company has a long history of innovative hardware and software, which includes introducing the Nexus 1000v — the world’s first fully functional virtual switch.  Cisco also played a pivotal role participating in technologies like VXLAN and Open Transport Virtualization (OTV).

Clearly, Cisco didn’t wake up one morning and say “SDN… what?”  Using the Openflow standard, Cisco already offers SDN solutions.  As an approach to network programmability and emerging software-defined networking models, Cisco commonly uses the terminology “Open Network Environment,” which is called Cisco ONE.   Granted, they’ve kept this stuff in the closet (well, in their labs) for a while…

According to Cisco, the company is delivering the Open Network Environment as a multi-pronged strategy including:

  • onePK, which is  a comprehensive developer kit with a rich set of platform APIs across Cisco IOS, IOS-XR, and NX-OS Software;
  • Proof-of-concept controllers and SDN/OpenFlow agents for research purposes;
  • Overlay network solutions that include the Cisco Nexus 1000V for scalable, multitenant cloud deployments.

Potential use cases for the Cisco Open Network Environment include:

  • Research and Academia: Network “slicing” using proof-of-concept campus slicing SDN controller and OpenFlow agents
  • Hyperscale Data Centers: Network flow management with programmatic access through APIs
  • Cloud Providers: Automated provisioning and programmable overlay for scalable multi-tenancy
  • Service Providers: Programmatic access, policy, and analytics to optimize and monetize service delivery
  • Enterprise: Virtualization of workloads and virtual data infrastructure (VDI) for private cloud automation

While some of the content and technology highlighted in the webinar appeared very mature and well thought out, a portion of it seemed to be hastily developed.  That said, I have no doubt that Cisco will have a very competitive offering on the market – just in time for VMware to announce their plans for integrating the Nicira technology into their hypervisor and vCloud suite.

The temperature is rising in the SDN market.  Though it will be some time before customers realize the true benefits of this approach and begin adoption.  However, for the time being, the bigger question becomes, how will traditional vendor relationships (like Cisco and VMware’s for example) be impacted and how will that impact the ecosystem of innovators and integrators who focus on these technology areas?

I look forward to receiving any thoughts and feedback you may have.