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Plexxi Pulse: The Plexxi Channel on SDNCentral

Over the past year or so, we’ve been hard at work with SDNCentral and our various partners showing the new networking frontier in real-world applications. If you head over to our channel at SDNCentral this week, you’ll see that our live demo archive is now available. There you can watch and download our recent demos with Chef, Opscode, SolidFire and others. Check it out and let us know what you think.

In this week’s PlexxiTube video of the week, Dan Backman discusses affinities and the question “do I have to affinitize everything?” with the San Francisco skyline in the background.


WANs a Growing Focus for SDN Vendors

Jeff Burt from eWEEK highlights how WANs are becoming a growing focus for SDN vendors. He points to recent moves by Fujitsu and Viptela, two companies that are the latest examples of organizations offering solutions that apply SDN capabilities to organizations’ WANs. In my opinion, part of why we are seeing more activity outside the datacenter heat up is that the use cases become more specific. Deploying SDN for the sake of deploying SDN is interesting but difficult to justify, particularly as most offerings are fledglings with a subset of functionality of their non-SDN equivalents. People do not deploy SDN. They deploy networks that do something. So long as the value prop is a fuzzy OpEx savings (and most companies don’t instrument their operations well enough to know this), then deployments will be slow. What we are seeing is SDN sliding to an area that is easier to instrument and monetize. This reflects buying behavior. Is SDN in the DC dead? No. But vendors selling it need to be more explicit with what they do.

You Either Love SDN, or You Really Don’t

Not all too surprising, but just because SDN is gaining popularity doesn’t mean that everyone buys into this “new networking nirvana,” as Mitch Wagner puts it in Light Reading. I think people need to get past thinking of SDN as the thing and more about it as the how. Deploying SDN is interesting but it does nothing for the business by itself. Deploying SDN in support of a specific use case? Very different. But then SDN takes the supporting role, not the leading one.

The reality is that the SDN use case has been made largely on overarching statements of either OpEx savings or dynamic control. With the former, until these models are better articulated and customer environments better instrumented, there will continue to be skepticism. On the latter, not everyone needs control. Control matters where you have a scale or rate of change that needs to be addressed.

When vendors shift from general SDN talk to very specific use cases, we will see adoption in broader numbers. But even then, what is being done ought to trump how it is being done.

What Does 2014 Have in Store for the Networking Industry?

Amandeep Dang, a contributor to Light Reading India, asks, “What does 2014 have in store for the networking industry?”

I think the most interesting trend will be how the network will intersect the other major trends mentioned at the outset like Big Data, cloud, and BYOD.

Big Data, for example, screams for coordination with the network. SDN could serve as a means of controlling how applications traverse the network, useful if you don’t want to build out a storage-specific network alongside the rest of your infrastructure.

The companies that manage to bring these together will marry form and function. SDN by itself is interesting but not compelling. In the context of a useful deployment scenario, it becomes magical.

Survey: Many Planning To Use Software-Defined Networking (Whatever That Is)

A new study out this week highlights adoption rates for SDN and upcoming trends for the networking industry. While we focus on SDN, some of the bandwidth trends are potentially more interesting. How can SDN drive up network utilization, for example? Google’s much-talked-about G-Scale implementation of OpenFlow was about getting more utilization out of expensive fiber.

While SDN takes from and center in that discussion, the question is how do people get more out of the network capacity they are buying. It will be interesting to see if this area evolves more quickly over the next few years. Consider that we still basically use the same set of algorithms from the 1950s. Might be ripe for change.

For additional thoughts on Dijkstra’s algorithms, my colleague Mike Bushong wrote about this very topic.

SDN Prompts More Questions than Answers

Jim Duffy of Network World writes that SDN is producing more questions than it is answers. This is a result of the industry prematurely moved from education to hype. We have left a large user base behind who don’t understand and frankly don’t have the time to understand what SDN is really doing.

The science fiction future we paint is so far removed from on-the-ground realities at most places that SDN has become relegated to a buzzword, a marketing term, something for academics or those “companies like Google.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. We need to have more specific conversations. Talking about the whole network makes the problem too big, and it makes it sound like a rip and replace. Do one or two things, but do them well.

John Chambers: Cisco Is Going To Crush VMware

Julie Bort of Business Insider comments on the next chapter in the ongoing saga between Cisco and VMware.

I think the interesting battle between Cisco and VMware isn’t over the network per say. It’s about point of control. If IT silos do collapse as has been predicted forever now, do people enter their infrastructure from the point of view of the server (a la vCenter)? Or do they approach it via the network?

The major competing points of view are less about moving packets and more about applying things like policy. It is not surprising that both VMW and Cisco talk policy.

In my opinion, the most likely outcome is not one or the other. People for whom the business revolves around the apps themselves will start from the server. People for whom the network is the thing will start from the network. Both will do fine. The collateral damage will be everyone else who has point of control aspirations.


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More Stories By Mat Mathews

Visionary solutions are built by visionary leaders. Plexxi co-founder and Vice President of Product Management Mat Mathews has spent 20 years in the networking industry observing, experimenting and ultimately honing his technology vision. The resulting product — a combination of traditional networking, software-defined networking and photonic switching — represents the best of Mat's career experiences. Prior to Plexxi, Mat held VP of Product Management roles at Arbor Networks and Crossbeam Systems. Mat began his career as a software engineer for Wellfleet Communications, building high speed Frame Relay Switches for the carrier market. Mat holds a Bachelors of Science in Computer Systems Engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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