For the networking industry, the past few years have been marked by rapid change and upheaval. This year was no different as networking continued to quickly evolve as SDN and open networking gained steam.
While still an emerging technology, software-defined networking began to move past the experimental stage in 2015. According to market research firm IHS, SDN deployments grew beyond pilot projects this year as enterprises became comfortable with the technology. IHS expects the market for in-use SDN Ethernet switches and controllers will top $1.4 billion this year.
Demand for bare-metal switches -- switches without a network operating system loaded on them -- helped to drive SDN growth, according to IHS.
Certainly there was a lot of activity this year on the open networking front, including HP releasing a white-box switch and an open source network operating system, Juniper releasing a disaggregated version of its Junos software, and Facebook developing a 100 Gigabit Ethernet version of its Wedge top-of-rack data center switch.
On the SDN front, Cisco and VMware ramped up their sparring match over their ACI and NSX platforms, while software-defined WAN continued to garner lots of attention.
2015 saw plenty of other big changes in the networking industry, including longtime Cisco CEO John Chambers stepping down, HP's acqusition of WLAN vendor Aruba, and the depletion of ARIN's IPv4 supply. Let's take a walk down memory lane as we look back on the past year in networking.
Cisco ACI vs. NSX
There are a ton of vendors in the SDN market, but Cisco and VMware grab much of the spotlight. How Cisco ACI and VMware NSX compare is one of the top questions the networking team at Gartner receives from its clients, Andrew Lerner, research director at Gartner, wrote in a blog post this summer. The vendors fueled the fire as they as vied for dominance in the customer count department (latest count: ACI 1100, NSX 900) and their experts duked it out on Twitter.
Chambers steps down
After months of will he or won't he, John Chambers stepped down as CEO of Cisco this summer. Chambers first joined Cisco in 1991 and served as the company's CEO for 20 years, expanding the company's breadth and steering it through the global recession. When he presented his final Cisco Live keynote as CEO in June, it was an emotional farewell for many of the networking pros at the show. Now, all eyes are on new CEO Chuck Robbins, who was Cisco's senior VP of worldwide field operations.
ARINs IPv4 supply runs dry
All the talk about the Internet running out of IPv4 addresses became a reality in September when the American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) announced that it had issued the final IPv4 addresses in its free pool. The depletion leaves companies with ARIN's waiting list for IPv4 address blocks, using the IPv4 transfer market, or -- gasp -- finally deploying IPv6.
(Image: Thierry Ehrmann/Flickr)
HP unveils open source NOS
The open networking trend gained more momentum this fall, when HP (before its corporate split) announced a new Linux-based, open source network operating system. The goal of the NOS is to provide data center operators with more flexibility in networking gear. Other open source network operating systems are available, such as Big Switch Networks' contribution to the Open Compute Project, but having an industry giant -- backed by Intel, Broadcom, VMware and Accton -- jump in definitely caught the industry's attention.
White-box switch options grow
Dell got the white-box switch party started last year when it offered the Cumulus Linux network OS on two of its TOR switches, and struck a reseller deal with Big Switch Networks. Juniper followed with its OCX1100 open networking switch. This year, HP jumped on the bandwagon for branded white-box switches -- which Gartner calls brite-box by putting its name on switches from Accton with Cumulus Linux. Dell and HP have both expanded the third-party NOS options they offer.
Meanwhile, the industry is still waiting to see what Cisco does. CEO Chuck Robbins told reporters in the fall that the company doesnt have a religion when it comes to white-box switches and is open to Cisco software eventually running on x86 servers for certain use cases. But he added that some applications require high-performance hardware, and noted that customers generally dont want to do a lot of integration.
Juniper disaggregates Junos
Juniper Networks took its open networking strategy a step further when it unveiled a disaggregated version of its flagship Junos network operating system. Juniper executives said the disaggregation of Junos would give customers the choice to run the software on third-party switches and also to install third-party applications directly on Juniper switches. The company also launched a new data center access switch, the QFX5200, as the first to support the disaggregated Junos.
Facebook builds on Wedge
Facebook, which has led the charge on open networking through the Open Compute Project, followed up its 2014 introduction of its open Wedge TOR switch with its 6-pack platform. The modular aggregation switch uses Wedge with its Linux-based OS as its basic building block. In November, the social networking giant announced that its working on a 100 GbE version of Wedge.
HP buys Aruba Networks
When HP acquired WLAN supplier Aruba Networks for $3 billion, it snagged WLAN market leadership and had networking pros worried how the industry giant would handle the merger. M&A deals dont always bode too well for the acquired company and its technology, after all. So far, it seems like Aruba is going along as if nothing happened, except that its now a Hewlett Packard Enterprise company.
802.11ac Wave 2
While 802.11ac Wave 1 has been on the rise for a while, this year we saw the first 802.11ac Wave 2 access point when Ruckus Wireless debuted its ZoneFlex R710 in April.
The arrival of 11ac Wave 2 products sparked debate among wireless experts on whether Wave 2 access points will need more than the 1 Gbps Ethernet connections Wave 1 and older generation 802.11n devices use.
SD-WAN gains traction
The buzz around software-defined WAN grew louder this year as pundits talked up its ability to reduce the complexity and cost associated with enterprise WANs. SD-WANs, which are offered by a handful of startups as well as established vendors like Cisco, give enterprises the ability to apply automation to the WAN and run traffic over a mix of public broadband, private MPLS and other types of links. According to the Rayno Report, the enterprise SD-WAN market could reach $7.5 billion by 2020, and more than $360 million in venture capital had been poured into this market earlier this year.
- Marcia Savage
- Connect Directly
Networking 2015 Rewind
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