IBM and NEC announced this week that the two companies will work together to offer networking solutions based upon SDN and OpenFlow. IBM provides the switches which are integrated with the NEC Programmable Flow Controller. To me, this is bigger than just a press release and some joint marketing programs. Here\u2019s why:1. IBM and NEC are moving OpenFlow beyond academic labs and cloud computing theory, taking their joint solution to enterprise data centers. Yes, enterprises need to be educated on SDN and its benefits, but the use case for OpenFlow is certainly there since legacy networks can\u2019t keep up with growing data scale or virtual server mobility.2. While the headline may be OpenFlow, it\u2019s really all about software. Mainframes became virtual computing platforms in the 1970s and Intel servers did the same with server virtualization technology from Citrix, Microsoft, Red Hat, and VMware. The next step is cloud computing which is intended to virtualize the whole IT infrastructure enchilada but static proprietary networks just don\u2019t play well in this arena. 3. You have to give NEC credit for recognizing the software-centric opportunity around OpenFlow and bringing a quality controller to market. NEC could become the standard glue of a heterogeneous OpenFlow network over time.4. When HP purchased 3Com, a lot of people had IBM reacting with an acquisition of Brocade or Juniper. With SDN\/OpenFlow, IBM can create a data center fabric out of access switches. Between OpenFlow and existing partnerships, I can\u2019t see IBM making a big networking acquisition anytime soon.5. For those of us who\u2019ve been around the industry for a while, it is certainly ironic to see IBM taking a leadership position in networking. I know I\u2019m showing my age, but it doesn\u2019t seem like that long ago when IBM was pushing Token Ring and SNA. 6. Personally, I don\u2019t see SDN and OpenFlow as a threat to Cisco. In fact, Cisco could build OpenFlow software with IOS\/Nexus intelligence and integration as sort of a dual path strategy. If I've learned anything about the network industry it is this: Never (and I mean never) count Cisco out when it comes to networking.