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Akanda 2016 Predictions: The Year That Software Ate the Network Hardware Stack

Virtualization and Cloud executives share their predictions for 2016.  Read them in this 8th Annual series exclusive.

Contributed by Henrik Rosendahl, CEO of Akanda

2016: The Year That Software Ate the Network Hardware Stack

1. OpenStack Will Become a Top Choice for Managing Multi-Vendor Clouds

In 2011, Amazon introduced an "AWS connector," a tiny piece of software (called Amazon EC2 import connector) that migrated VMware workloads to Amazon's cloud infrastructure. This migration tool is great for enterprises, which want more cloud choices. It also illustrates how quickly the cloud can dismantle vendor lock-in. Today, OpenStack makes it easy to automate network functions and program your network infrastructure like a server. Going a step further, network orchestration platforms like OpenStack Astara can make it easy for enterprises to pick-and-choose the network functions they want. How would this work? Network functions are network applications.   This software lives inside dedicated network appliances and network routers. Today, these software functions can be unbundled from network hardware and run inside OpenStack clouds. That's great news for enterprises, but not great for hardware vendors.  In 2016, I expect OpenStack will be used as a connector technology to manage multi-vendor clouds.

2. Cloud Infrastructure Makes Routing-as-a-Service Viable

Speaking about the rise of mobile banking and FinTech start-ups, Microsoft founder Bill Gates once said "the world needs banking, it doesn't need banks." The same could be said about networking. The world needs networks, it doesn't need big network vendors.   Today, most network functions can be abstracted into software. What this means is that $20B edge routing market is about to be turned upside down. Cloud infrastructures are interesting alternatives, because they give enterprises unlimited compute, storage and network resources. For certain edge routing functions, there is unlimited compute for network processing, unlimited storage for router applications, and unlimited flash memory for things like routing tables and route forwarding. For these reasons, cloud infrastructures make routing-as-a-service viable or good enough for most network services. In next few years, I expect a large substitution movement from hardware to software. This will put a lot of pressure on network hardware vendors to rethink their product form factors (hardware vs. software) and their business models (buy vs. rent).   In the short-term, network functions like application performance management; traffic load-balancing and security functions will migrate from network hardware to network software.

3. Open Software Movement Has Made Many Standards Bodies Obsolete

Within the open software movement, traditional standards bodies are losing relevance.   They are viewed as slow and plodding - as well as government or vendor-controlled.   And these standards bodies are hardly pillars for innovation or interoperability. In contrast, the power of open networks is best defined by the contributions of its users.   We're talking about developers with hands on keyboards. They contribute code to groups like OpenStack Foundation, Open NFV and a wide assortment of open compute and open networking projects. It's meritocracy that is all about speed, efficiency and results. Most DevOps people operate outside the orbit of the IETF, ETSI or the ITU, but their contributions to cloud futures is real and substantial. Interoperability isn't just about kicking the IP packet down the network pipe. It is about the unbundling or bundling of network services depending on the needs of customers. Regrettably, many standards bodies have forgotten how to stay relevant. 


About the Author

Henrik Rosendahl is the CEO of Akanda, the main contributor of the recently launched OpenStack network orchestration platform, Project Astara. Rosendahl has led Akanda since the company's founding in 2014. A veteran of enterprise software, Rosendahl was previously the co-founder of CloudVolumes (a virtualization company acquired by VMware in 2014). In all, he has four successful exits including Pancetera Software (to Quantum), Thinstall (also to VMware), and Interse A/S (to ScanJour A/S). Rosendahl also invests and advises startups, including Be My Eyes and Lua. He lives in the Bay Area.


Published Friday, December 18, 2015 8:05 AM by David Marshall
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