Network Computing is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Networking 2014: Industry Highlights And Lowlights

  • In 2013, software-defined networking dominated headlines as the technology began moving from hype to actual products. While SDN may have lost some of that new car smell this year, it continued to grab the lion's share of attention in the networking industry.

    Industry heavyweights Cisco and VMware continued to spar with their competing SDN platforms, OpenDaylight debuted its open source SDN controller, and SDN began expanding to the WAN.

    Alongside all the SDN developments, white-box switching gained momentum with big-name vendors like Dell and Juniper jumping on the trend. And the Open Compute Project made good on its promise to develop an open, OS-agnostic top-of-rack switch with Facebook's Wedge.

    At the same time, security problems loomed large. Networking vendors scrambled to issue patches for the Heartbleed bug, which affected scores of networking products. The industry also was jolted by a report that alleged the NSA was putting backdoors in US-supplied networking devices.

    Here are some of the highlights -- and lowlights -- of this year in networking. 

  • OpenDaylight Unveils Hydrogen

    In March, the OpenDaylight Project -- an industry consortium launched in 2013 to create an open source SDN platform -- released its first software, Hydrogen. The software won top honors at Interop this year, snagging the Best Of Interop Grand Award as well as SDN award. OpenDaylight launched an update called Helium in September. This fall, the Open Networking Lab unveiled its open source SDN Open Network Operating System (ONOS), described by some as an alternative to OpenDaylight. The nonprofit group has funding from AT&T, among others.

  • Cisco ships APIC

    After launching its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) platform with much fanfare in November 2013, Cisco did a lot of talking about ACI and Nexus 9000 switches, but left customers waiting for the centerpiece of the platform, the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC). In July, Cisco finally shipped APIC, a centralized management controller that pushes policies out to switches. Cisco executives are scheduled to provide an ACI update at the company's Global Editor's Conference this week in San Jose, Calif.

  • VMware NSX banks on security

    VMware's NSX had the industry buzzing when the company launched the network virtualization platform at VMworld in 2013. At this year's VMworld, VMware executives touted NSX's customer traction and security benefits with its "micro-segmentation" capabilities. Security has turned out to be the top use case for NSX, executives said. VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger called NSX a game-changer for IT security.

  • SDN WAN emerges

    Software-defined networking expanded beyond the data center to the WAN as a new class of SDN WAN products began hitting the market. In a blog post, Network Computing contributor Ethan Banks wrote that SDN-WAN technology can help overcome the challenges of managing a WAN by automating the configuration of WAN edge routers. SDN WAN was a big topic at Interop New York in the fall. Some of the companies in this space include Viptela, CloudGenix, Glue Networks, and Cisco with its IWAN technology.

  • White-box switches gain momentum

    White-box switches, also called bare-metal switches, were a hot trend this year, starting with Dell and Cumulus Networks teaming up to offer the Cumulus Linux network OS on two of Dell's top-of-rack switches. Dell also struck a reseller deal with Big Switch Networks to offer the SDN company's Switch Light OS on Dell's Ethernet switches. Recently, Juniper Networks unveiled a switch (pictured above) targeting massive data centers that combines its Junos OS with hardware design from the Facebook-led Open Compute Project. The rise of alternatives to the traditional switch with tightly integrated software and hardware led Gartner to coin a new phrase, "brite-box," which Gartner Research Director Andrew Lerner described as shorthand for branded white-box switching.

  • Facebook Wedge

    On the same trend of disaggregated switching, Facebook wowed the industry when it unveiled its open, top-of-rack switch code-named Wedge. Facebook executives said the switch, running a Linux-based operating system code-named FBOSS, provides the flexibility that conventional networking based on proprietary hardware and software doesn't. Wedge was a milestone for the Open Compute Project, which Facebook started in 2011.

  • 25 Gigabit Ethernet

    An industry group led by Microsoft, Google, Brocade, Broadcom, Mellanox, and Arista Networks launched an effort to develop a specification to run over a 25 GbE or 50 GbE link protocol. The goal, the group said, is to enable bandwidth scaling for cloud infrastructure. In a blog post, Network Computing contributor Greg Ferro wrote that the technology would provide a cost-effective leap in data center Ethernet performance.

  • Heartbleed

    The initial response to the massive Heartbleed flaw this spring focused on patching public-facing websites, but then it became clear that the impact of the OpenSSL vulnerability was even more widespread and insidious: Criminals could use it to exploit a huge swath of network devices. Cisco and Juniper were among the many networking vendors that rushed to issue patches to switches, VPNs, and other products.

  • NSA spying allegations

    Among all the NSA spying allegations leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden was a report citing that the agency routinely intercepted US-produced networking equipment and added backdoor access capabilities before the devices are shipped abroad. The report prompted Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers to write President Obama about the critical need for trust in the global supply chain and calling for "rules of the road." He also told Obama it was not Cisco's practice to work with any government to weaken its products.