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Serro 2017 Predictions: SDN - Domain-Specific Solutions Powered by Specialized Processes and Zero Latency

VMblog Predictions 2017

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2017.  Read them in this 9th annual VMblog.com series exclusive.

Contributed by Nitin Serro, CEO of Serro

SDN Prediction: Domain-Specific Solutions Powered by Specialized Processes and Zero Latency

Commodity virtualization has moved from servers to networks, and in doing so has produced software-defined networking (SDN) to make networks agile and higher performance. Sitting at the core of SDNs are controllers - applications that manage flow control to enable intelligent networking. But it's still early days for SDN and controller-based networking and the intelligence, agility and performance they promise, especially for web-scale, highly distributed, carrier-grade services. Expect that to change. How? In 2017, I predict we'll start to see domain-specific solutions that use specialized processors capable of delivering industrialized network virtualization with near zero latency.

Sizing the SDN market is tricky, and estimates vary, but it's already in the billions. Most of the market research does indicate big growth - 50 percent or even more year over year - between now and 2020. In fact, research firm IDC estimates that by 2020, the SDN market will be worth nearly $12.5 billion. IDC also expects much of that growth to come from the two software categories - the virtualization/control layer and SDN applications.

SDN's growth, however, will slow if the technology is running on x86-based routers/switches that don't scale. Traditional x86-based commodity networking has reached its peak in terms of performance and agility. SDN's growth will also slow if it doesn't include automated orchestration, isn't intelligent, or can't perform near zero-latency transactions. Legacy networking infrastructures won't work, even with equipment upgrades, more bandwidth, or the addition of SDN simply layered on top. But SDN architectures built from the ground up on domain-specific processors and that enable zero latency computing and automated services orchestration will be able to move application resources-whether network, compute or storage-to wherever they are needed, at any scale.

With zero latency computing, there will be no time is lost during the exchange of information between one interface and another. A system will be able to respond instantly to an input of information. This is essential for applications such as medical robots, but also a requirement for many IoT,  industrial virtual reality and other next-gen applications. Automated services orchestration is, of course, the automated arrangement and management of computer resources, and typically involves aligning business objectives and requests with the applications, data and infrastructure through workflows, provisioning and change management.

But let's get back to my SDN prediction for the coming year: domain-specific SDNs that use specialized processors. In the late 1990s, chipset makers began introducing graphics processing units (GPUs) - specialized electronic circuits to improve the creation of images for output to a display. Today's GPUs are much more advanced with highly parallel structures that make them more efficient than general-purpose CPUs for algorithms where the processing of large blocks of data is done in parallel. In 2007, Nvidia developed GPU accelerators - the use of a GPU with a CPU to accelerate the processing of analytics, engineering and other intensive applications - that are now used in data centers around the world. GPUs are also increasingly being used for applications in everything from virtual reality, to artificial intelligence, to self-driving cars and robots.

SDNs need their own equivalent GPU accelerators, and I expect in the coming year, the smartest and strongest companies will begin to move off of x86-based platforms for routing and begin investing in more advanced platforms. GPU accelerators will be able to accelerate the SDN controllers as well as accelerate the automated orchestration of network resources. The result? An intelligent, zero-latency network service that can scale to the millions.

Consider a global manufacturer with facilities spread around the world. With a virtualized SDN, the network supporting the applications is more dynamic, flexible and centrally controlled. But will it support a cloud-based model that centralizes all the intelligence needed to manipulate robots, conveyors, assembly lines and other processes at numerous locations, in the manufacturer's corporate data center? Will it deliver that intelligence without any latency? Will it orchestrate network resources automatically and intelligently? In order to achieve this, the manufacturer needs industrial virtualization, a domain-specific SDN capable of supporting advanced applications like virtual reality and IoT among millions of possible traffic flows, and delivering it all with zero latency between the data center and all the manufacturing facilities.

SDNs are capturing the attention of everyone from enterprises to service providers and carriers. The SDN market is expected to be worth tens of billions of dollars in just a few short years, and the technology promises more efficient, flexible, intelligent networking. But achieving web-scale SDN will require more than virtualized networking built on top of legacy architectures and commodity x86. It will require a fundamentally new type of routing platform, one that's built for domain-specific solutions using highly specialized, powerful processors. We're at the chasm, and I expect us to cross over soon.

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About the Author

Nitin Serro is the founder and CEO of Serro. Upon earning an MS in computer networking and software development from the University of Southern California, he began a career with Juniper Networks in which he facilitated large-scale proof of concepts for service providers. Nitin worked as an architect for Google and other enterprise service providers as the industry started to incorporate software-defined solutions utilizing open source technologies.

Nitin anticipated the shift from end-user to end-resource networking technologies and identified the need for a specialized skillset in network engineering combined with workflow automation. This industry demand drove the inception of Serro in 2008. Today, the company serves as a resource for NFV/SDN system design, workflow automation, and core code development.

Nitin Serro 

Published Tuesday, November 15, 2016 7:02 AM by David Marshall
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