A panel discussion this week in Santa Clara, Calif. highlighted some of the many issues surrounding software-defined networking, including whether standards are needed and how to accelerate SDN adoption.
The panel was held at the inaugural OpenDaylight Summit, which attracted nearly 600 attendees and featured the release of the OpenDaylight Project's first open source SDN code, Hydrogen.
Dan Pitt, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation, which works to promote SDN and OpenFlow technologies, said organizational inertia is impeding SDN adoption. ONF is trying to ease the migration to SDN by enabling coexistence with a lot of existing enterprise technology investments and building training opportunities, Pitt said.
Guru Parulkar, chairman of the Open Networking Summit and a leader in developing OpenFlow, called SDN is "a disruptive innovation," but doesn't see anything holding it back. "It will go through its own technology cycle... It's going through a natural adoption model," he said.
On the topic of standards, Pitt said the ONF tries to standardize as little as possible. "The key is to enable those who operate networks to build best-of-breed pieces," he said.
The main goal of the ONF, he added, is to help SDN succeed, not to push standards.
[Read why Tom Hollingsworth thinks we need a new term for software-defined networking that has strict requirements before vendors can label their products with it in "Is It Time for SDN 2.0?"]
Parulkar also said SDN standardization generally should be avoided. Any standards should be based on experience with the technology and finding what APIs work best, he said.
Nick Lippis, co-founder and vice chairman of the Open Networking User Group, said he sees a role for both standards and open source with SDN, but believes the open source pieces will be more important. "In the enterprise, there's a dire need for a software ecosystem," he said.
Standards aside, SDN is much needed, panelists said. "The market is looking for capex and opex relief," Lippis said, adding that one network engineer may manage 120 devices. "There's huge bloat in terms of operational cost to run enterprise networks," he said.
Network management needs to be streamlined and automated in order for trends such as big data to take off, Lippis said.
Today, network operators depend too much on vendors, but with SDN, operators are taking more control, Parulkar said. "Now the pendulum is swinging back."