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Pica8 2018 Predictions: Open White-Box Switching Networks Enter Adulthood

VMblog Predictions 2018

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2018.  Read them in this 10th annual series exclusive.

Contributed by James Liao, CEO and co-founder of Pica8

Open White-Box Switching Networks Enter Adulthood

Software-defined networking (SDN) technology is now on track to become a $12.7 billion market by the year 2020. Since our last visit 12 months ago, "monolithic" SDN architectures have transformed into a series of more specific solutions designed to solve real-world problems, including SD-WAN and NFV, and have continued to push the technology into wholly new market segments, which will be the theme for our 2018 predictions.

With the significant maturation of all the technologies involved in the SDN "ecosystem," in 2018 we specifically see white-box-centric SDN solutions - with reliability and support issues now a thing of the past -- leading the expansion into even more new markets, particularly in the enterprise vertical, which maintains its lead-adopter status for all things SDN. These new solutions will be overtly created to break the limitations that legacy network equipment and architectures place on their users.

1. White-box adoption accelerates even more into the Enterprise

Since 2010, white-box switches have already become dominant network infrastructure elements for both mega-scale data centers and service providers alike. Mega-scale network users - aka Web-scale companies like Microsoft, Facebook, Verizon, and AT&T - have all put reliable white-box switches into their production networks to solve their ongoing OpEx challenges. From the perspective of network operations, enterprises have an even stronger need to diversify software and services than cloud DCs and service providers. (It's pretty hard to differentiate your product offerings if everyone in your industry has the exact same set of capabilities.) Therefore, we foresee that in 2018, enterprises will actually accelerate their adoption of white-box solutions that will absorb even more networking functions, like firewalls, load balancers, intrusion detection systems and other mission-critical appliances.

2. SD-WAN will converge both as a technology and a piece of terminology

As with most nascent technologies, the term SD-WAN itself applies to a vague and loosely defined set of technologies, some old, some new. There are so many different camps in the SD-WAN market that almost any technology company can claim an SD-WAN "solution" of some kind.  Some vendors focus on building new CPE for service providers, others on extending aging WAN optimization technology to new services. The SD-WAN market has, thankfully, started down the convergence path in 2017 and this trend will accelerate in 2018.

3. M&A in the networking Industry continues apace

Following the M&A of Brocade, Avaya, and Enterasys in 2016, we saw even more - and bigger - M&A events in 2017, including both Qualcomm and Cavium (still in process as of this writing), Viptela, and Velocloud. We can foresee this activity continuing to ramp up with a significant portion of the M&A deal flow increasingly taking place in the SD-WAN arena in 2018.

4. Network Management as a Service grows and will dominate

Not that we need another *aaS variant in our lexicon, but new enterprise services, such as New Retail, are going to require quite complex network management due to the dynamic changes inherent in their businesses. IoT and Big Data are both driving more cloud traffic to the premises. Therefore, as more network applications roll into enterprises, the scope of the network management components becomes a huge challenge. As a result, we will see a growing need for network management services in this area.

5. Security will be the catalyst that drives changes in the network

Security remains at the top of the list of concerns for IT managers, and always-on networks with their organic and uncontrollable populations of access points make it even more critical. Just the sheer diversity of security threats alone brings huge challenges to any network manager. No single security solution can solve all potential vulnerabilities and problems, and every security implementation needs some level of customization. In the coming year, we should see security, especially network security, evolving into new territory and continuing to invent new capabilities to help in this ongoing battle.


About the Author

James Liao 

James Liao is CEO and co-founder of Pica8, where he leads strategy and growth efforts for the company 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 Wednesday, November 22, 2017 5:39 AM by David Marshall
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