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Contributing Writer

Anticipating the Open Networking Summit

Mar 22, 20124 mins
Cisco SystemsData and Information SecurityIBM

Lots of buzz but real progress and use cases will be the highlight

We are a few weeks away from the Open Networking Summit ( which will be held in Santa Clara April 16 through 18. 

In preparation for ONS, ESG networking guru Bob Laliberte (who will be a session chair for a panel on standardization and adoption) and I have been talking to vendors, users, and segment experts like the guys from Wiretap Ventures (authors of the SDN Central website).  My guess is that ONS will be bigger and better attended than in the past but what’s really exciting is that the dialogue will likely shift from theoretical promises to actual use cases.  Yes, this will bring out the good, bad, and ugly of SDN and OpenFlow, but this will lead to a healthy discussion, targeted planning, and real innovation.

Bob and I are both watching the SDN space very closely so here are a few things we will be looking out for at ONS:

1.  Service provider activity.  We tend to spend most of our time in the enterprise space but we are hearing more and more interest in SDN coming from Telcos (especially wireless) and cloud service providers.  Most of the focus here is on the data center and as such mirrors similar interest in the enterprise space.  In this scenario, SDN looks like a winner for software-based network provisioning, change management, segmentation, etc.  Nicira seems focused on carriers here while HP and IBM are betting on enterprises.  On another note, we are hearing whispers of SDN and real-time traffic engineering for wireless carriers to deliver predictable end-to-end service delivery.  Think of MPLS on steroids with granular controls down to the application, user, or SLA level.  Great for ARPU and a wide range of potential new service offerings which is certainly why big dogs like NTT and Verizon are participating.

2.  Software, software, software.  We’d like to see more discussion around the “s” in SDN.  So far, SDN has led to controller development from companies like NEC and BigSwitch, but will there really be a robust SDN developer community or will each vendor develop its own software and perhaps recruit a few partners?  This is what Juniper has done by opening up JUNOS which has led to some Juniper success but hasn’t unleashed a global development movement.  To ESG, this is where OpenFlow holds the most potential but where are we in this evolution and how will things progress?

3.  Network security.  Data center networking professionals were asked to identify their biggest challenges in a recent ESG Research survey.  The number one response was “network security” (51%), followed by “network performance” (44%), and “network management” (32%).  This makes sense to me as physical network security appliances are a mismatch for massive data center networks and server virtualization.  Furthermore, many enterprises still struggle with virtual network security controls and managing physical/virtual assets with common policies.  Yes, SDN could help centralize and automate network security thus addressing many current issues but I’ve yet to speak with anyone thinking of SDN beyond L2/L3.  I hope this is part of the program at ONS.

4.  Virtual switching.  Physical networks intersect with the virtual world at the virtual switch.  VMware gets this and has done some great work here but nearly every shop I speak with considers the VMware vSwitch for little more than provisioning VMs and providing access to the physical network.  Cisco is way ahead here as the Nexus 1000v is far more successful than most people realize and users are actually taking advantage of some advanced features since they are tightly integrated with traditional Cisco infrastructure and tools.  In my mind, SDN can only be successful if it is tightly integrated with virtual switching (as it is with Open vSwitch), cloud computing platforms like OpenStack, and proprietary technologies like VMware VXLan, Nexus, Juniper QFabric, Brocade VCS, etc.  Arista has done a good job playing Switzerland with its software here but what will the industry do on a more global basis?

We are looking forward to these and many other discussions in Santa Clara in less than a month. 

Contributing Writer

Jon Oltsik is a distinguished analyst, fellow, and the founder of the ESG’s cybersecurity service. With over 35 years of technology industry experience, Jon is widely recognized as an expert in all aspects of cybersecurity and is often called upon to help customers understand a CISO's perspective and strategies. Jon focuses on areas such as cyber-risk management, security operations, and all things related to CISOs.

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