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Pica8 2016 Prediction: SDN Gets Real with Enterprise Applications

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2016.  Read them in this series exclusive.

Contributed by James Liao, CEO and Founder of Pica8

SDN Gets Real with Enterprise Applications

Service providers have jumped into SDN with both feet - they have the skills and organizational breadth to bring developers to the table, and help craft solutions. Yet, enterprises have remained elusive and have only been sniffing around SDN, with valid historical concerns over easy-to-use and maintain solutions.

We see 2016 as the year where SDN will deliver on this promise for the enterprise. What's driving this is, simply put, critical mass - the emergence of applications available from places like HP's App Store, and distributors/integrators like SYNNEX offering turnkey SDN configuration services with all the components needed. With applications offered that are pre-integrated, or delivered like you get applications from your smart devices, enterprises have the real ability to easily and cost-effectively streamline their operations with policy-based networking.

Why isn't SDN just a matter of using APIs? APIs offer flexibility and a degree of openness, which even Cisco uses to offer their version of "open" SDN solutions. I think the real value of SDN is the idea of policies from a network environment that is built for each customer environment, yet they don't have to build it. This is what enterprise customers tell us they want. SDN enables a policy-driven network and through ecosystems and system integrators, enterprise customers will have an alternative to "one size fits all" solutions from incumbent vendors.

Meter, match, and act are the three steps SDN undertakes to execute tasks in a policy-driven network. SDN enables the metering of traffic conditions, application and user behavior to match those conditions against a set of pre-defined criteria and then to act on the match according to a policy. Part of a policy framework is to pre-set conditions that are metered against. This is a form of automation, and builds proactivity into the network - something we have always lacked.

I see enterprise use of SDN dividing into two camps: Data Center and Campus LAN. The Data Center camp is already seeing some adoption now and 2016 will be the tipping point, with SDN apps to extend high availability and disaster recovery. Already, there are Overlay and DR as a Service (DRaaS) apps available, along with apps for server configuration management, cloud service automation and security, among others. On the Campus LAN side, where every IT team is stretched thin, SDN can be the next big thing in driving down unplanned downtime, and really helping smaller teams scale. We have applications like Elbrys Networks' app for Wi-Fi management and Ecode Networks' app for VPN provisioning. In all, there are over 40 SDN apps alone now available from the HP SDN App Store.

With a robust ecosystem of vendors offering everything from white box and brite box switches to network operating systems and applications, the time for the SDN space to "get real" for network managers enterprise will hit critical mass. And the missing link was a service and solution delivery model from partners that the enterprise can trust. 2015 has been the year to plant the seeds for integrators to lead this transformation, and 2016 will see these solutions getting real attention.


About the Author

James Liao leads strategy and growth efforts for Pica8 as it shapes the SDN space. He has a proven track record in networking product innovation and development: before founding Pica8, James led product strategy for switching and data center products at original device manufacturer Quanta. He also built world-class engineering teams at both Woven Systems and 3UP Systems. Born in Taiwan, James holds an MS in Computer Science from Stanford University.
Published Thursday, October 22, 2015 6:31 AM by David Marshall
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