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SDN Is A Marathon, Goldman Sachs Says

Investment banking firm expects its journey to software-defined networking will be a long haul.

With a complex environment of specialized networks, Goldman Sachs is eager to reap the efficiency and cost-savings promises of software-defined networking. So far, the financial services firm has tried a variety of approaches, including both commercial and open source systems for network overlays.

"We haven't seen a single approach that will get us closer," Matthew Liste, managing director and technology fellow at Goldman Sachs, said in a presentation at this week's Open Networking Summit 2014 in Santa Clara, Calif.

"We're confident we'll get there over time," he added. "This is absolutely a marathon."

Liste's presentation on an enterprise experience with SDN at ONS 2014 was a contrast to much of the service-provider focused discussion at the conference. A feature of the show was a keynote by AT&T's John Donovan on the company's plans for deploying SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV). Internet giants Google and Microsoft also gave talks.

Goldman Sach's network isn't on the same scale as Google's, but it's complex with separate trading environments, Liste said. "Really, our challenge is managing that complexity without huge overhead," he said.

Liste said the company is focused on "software-defined everything" and is a "big believer" in open standards and open architectures. "We want to see programmatic and comprehensive control planes."

[Get advice on how to start making the switch to software-defined networking in "Making the SDN Transition: First Steps."]

In actuality, the networking industry has been doing software-defined networking for a long time, for example, by using custom APIs, he said. But activities such as separation of the control and data planes and separation of software from appliances have all been done with a high level of complexity.

"The good news is that these ideas aren't new, but hopefully the time is right for them to become real," Liste said.

Moving forward, Goldman Sachs plans to continue to try out various SDN approaches, including overlays, merchant silicon with open source routing and switching, L4-L7 services in the NFV model, and centralized controllers for policy and traffic engineering.

The company wants to see common control planes where vendors can plug in drivers, bare-metal switches with common hardware abstraction layers, and a Linux-like operating system for switches. It will work with commercial vendors, OpenStack, the Open Networking Foundation, and startups in its quest, Liste said.

"Our view is with all these efforts, we'll get in the right place by letting them all flourish together," he said.

During a Q&A after his presentation, Liste said the company is undertaking this project through a converged effort involving multiple teams, not just networking. "You need to think of it as a system problem, not a networking problem," he said.

Marcia Savage is the managing editor for Network Computing, and has been covering technology for 15 years. She has written and edited for CRN and spent several years covering information security for SC Magazine and TechTarget. Marcia began her journalism career in daily ... View Full Bio

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