SDN On Road To Mainstream

The industry has moved past debating software-defined networking to implementing it to solve real problems, a panel of networking vendor experts say at Interop Las Vegas.

Marcia Savage

April 30, 2015

2 Min Read
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A keynote panel at Interop Las Vegas was called "SDN First Steps," but according to the panelists, the industry is past the initial foray into software-defined networking with production deployments happening across different vertical markets.

Arpit Joshipura, VP of product management and strategy at Dell, compared acceptance of the state of SDN to the stages of grief.

"At first we denied SDN would be around for a long time. Then we were depressed, 'Things work, why should I change?' Then the phase of acceptance. Now, we have lots of use cases and market acceptance," he said.

Not everyone experienced the denial phase, said Sarwar Raza, VP product management of NFV at HP. "There was definitely a stream of early adopters on both the customer and vendor sides....We're beyond talking about what SDN is. It's important to focus on the business outcomes as opposed to the bits and bytes," he said.

Guido Appenzeller, chief technology strategy officer for networking and security at VMware, said five years ago, discussions around SDN used to revolve around architectural battles. The conversation abruptly changed last year as organizations began asking about SDN benefits, how to operationalize it, and how their IT staffs need to change.

"SDN is disruptive, but it gives you a great set of tools that will create a golden age for network administration," he said.

Raza said SDN doesn't require a wholesale change of an existing network, but can be introduced incrementally for use cases such as security. "We see a lot of pickup of SDN principles in service providers. I like to think of NFV being one of the top use cases for SDN," he said.

New skills, breaking down silos

Panelists said SDN will break down traditional enterprise silos of network admins and server admins, and will require network engineers to learn some new skills.

"Software is redefining people. The vertical silos will no longer work," Joshipura said. For example, a system administrator could manage a switch in a Linux environment without the traditional CLI. Network administrators need to add different skill sets and organizations may need to relocate staff to get the right mix of talent, he said.

Appenzeller said server administrators saw massive increases in productivity with virtualization, and that networking pros, if willing to "learn a little bit of scripting and Python," can reap the benefits of SDN.

"All the fun the server virtualization guys have had, you can have," he said.

Raza said the end goal of SDN for the network administrator is solving real problems, such as managing video and voice in networks.

"Now have knobs and wheels to have granular control over individual flows and apps that improve the quality of experience. That's what it's all about," he said.

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About the Author(s)

Marcia Savage

Executive Editor, Network Computing

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