I was at the Open Network Summit last month where attendees were very much engaged in the growth of software-defined networking (SDN) and the promise the technology offers for innovative solutions for data center and carrier networks alike.
From my vantage point at our booth, roaming the show floor, and attending conference sessions, I could hear genuine interest in the questions asked and comments made. I concluded that SDN has gained a momentum that is still accelerating.
The reason is that there are networking solutions on the show floor that were not available before SDN such as:
Hybrid Packet-Circuit Networks: There were a lot of questions about how SDN worked with photonic switching which gave me a chance to explain how our API allows OpenFlow controllers such as Floodlight to manage photonic switches creating a hybrid packet-circuit switched network. In this model, the circuit switch offloads large persistent data flows between datacenter racks and clusters, while the packet network is freed up for the short, bursty traffic. Overall performance is increased and latency is decreased.
Another hot topic at ONS was OpenDaylight, a new open-source controller combined with APIs that form a framework for a highly interoperable “out of the box” SDN framework. This new framework is potentially good for companies like CALIENT because it means customers have a strong starting point for deploying a software defined network architecture. Of course, we will all be waiting to see what is actually delivered in Q3, the promised release date for the first commercial release of OpenDaylight. Also in question is the cost. It may be open-source, but that does not mean it does not have a price tag.
Some attendees at ONS this year expressed the view that it was becoming hyped and over commercialized, compared with the more pure engineering focus of previous years. While this may be true, I take this as an indication that the industry is confident enough to invest in promoting a solution that it sees as becoming real and deployable fairly soon.
Some pundits say that 2013 is the year that SDN starts to become widely deployed. After seeing the innovation at ONS, with OpenDayLight and the hybrid packet-circuit network being just two examples, I would say we are moving in that direction quickly.
Also see our presentation on SlideShare: The Software Defined Packet/Optical Circuit Data Center Network.