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SDN, Cloud Design and Bare Metal Switching: 3 Predictions for Data Center Networks in 2014

VMblog 2014 Prediction Series

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2014.  Read them in this VMblog.com series exclusive.

By Kyle Forster, Co-Founder of Big Switch Networks http://www.bigswitch.com

While still in its formative stages, Software-Defined Networking (SDN) has become synonymous with under-the-hood technology transformations across the networking industry. In 2014, these transformations will become increasingly visible as initial use cases become clear, fundamental design choices emerge in cloud switching and bare metal switches play an increasingly large role in the SDN landscape.

Prediction 1: The Initial Use Cases For SDN Will Become Clear

SDN brings a next generation approach to a broad range of networking use cases, but an industry as large and diverse as this one will embrace SDN one use case at a time. We'll see the first three SDN use cases become clear in 2014. Cloud switching has been the most visible use case where SDN designs are addressing the glaring inefficiencies where data center switching meets IaaS clouds -- more on that below. Beyond cloud switching, Google's G* WAN (B4) project [1] is showing how SDN can have dramatic impact on traffic engineered WANs and Microsoft's DEMON project [2] is showing how SDN can have dramatic impact on scale-out, 10GE monitoring fabrics to round out the initial SDN use cases. These three areas - cloud switching, traffic engineered WANs and monitoring fabrics - will be the clear initial use cases for SDN.

Prediction 2: A Big Choice Will Emerge in SDN for Cloud Switching

For the last two years, the 'Big Choice' for data center operators to make in SDN's primary market, cloud switching, was "invest now or wait." Vendors, both large and small, were working through engineering cycles or acquisition integration, and the competitive landscape was not yet clear. The choice as we enter 2014 is different: Two camps are emerging for cloud switching. Over the course of the year, we'll see data center operators make a big choice between Overlay/Underlay or Unified Physical + Virtual (P+V) models for their cloud networks:
  • Overlay/Underlay: VMware NSX + a Hardware Switch Vendor, Alcatel-Lucent Nuage + a Hardware Switch Vendor, etc.
  • Unified P+V: Cisco ACI, Big Switch P+V Cloud Fabric

We will see data center operators who are looking to augment a traditional data center network design with cloud-style features pay the premium for an Overlay/Underlay solution, while operators looking for next generation data center networks or reduced cost will opt for a Unified P+V design.

Prediction 3: Bare Metal Switches Will Accelerate SDN

OEM/ODMs making a business out of bare metal switches have not been active players on the SDN landscape to date. That will change in 2014. SDN operating systems make these OEM/ODM bare metal switching hardware products competitive with leading fabric switching designs from tier-1 switching vendors, and even open up new markets for their hardware beyond switching. These OEM/ODMs have nothing to lose and everything to gain by accelerating SDN.

Gartner recently put out a report on SDN [3], noting that they expect market share of the top 3 legacy switch vendors to decline to <55% in 2016, echoing the sentiments of many in the infrastructure community that the time is ripe for innovation in networking. With this backdrop, the number of innovations rushing in to fill the void - Overlay/Underlays, SDN and non-SDN Fabrics, SDN-ready Bare Metal Switches - is what makes 2014 an exciting time to be in data center networking.

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[1] http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/~vahdat/papers/b4-sigcomm13.pdf

[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYe2aWebHZo

[3] Gartner, Software Defined Networking Will Change the Data Center Network Vendor Landscape, Nov 2013

About the Author 

Kyle spent most of his career at Cisco, initially as the technical assistant to SVP Mike Volpi and later as a Product Manager in the cellular and wifi business units. He launched three v1.0 products in wireless and security and finished his time there managing a ~$100 million portfolio of Cisco's WLAN Controllers. In between Cisco and Big Switch Networks, he was VP of Product Management at Joost, a peer-to-peer TV-over-the-Internet company from the founders of Skype. He started his career at eBusiness consulting company Scient, first as a java developer and later engineering manager and co-founder of the wireless practice. He holds a BSE in Electrical Engineering from Princeton, a MS in Computer Science and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.
Published Friday, January 03, 2014 6:53 AM by David Marshall
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