Sunday, April 29, 2012

SDN/OpenFlow will not replace today's network!

I have the conviction that SDN/OpenFlow will transform the networking industry just like what VMware hypervisor did for server industry, but I don't think it is going to replace today's network any time soon if one day at all.

First, let me quote a from a job candidate. 

He has subsequently accepted our offer but it is a real typical one: "Can a centralized openflow based model for running complete complex network control plane is fully scalable, practical, deployable, interoperable, etc. when compared to the current traditional way of establishing packet switched network which are highly distributed for the longest time."

The answer is, "Oh Hell No"!

Secondly, if replacing the existing infrastructure isn't what SDN/OpenFlow about, then where is the money for SDN/OpenFlow?

IMHO, the golden goose is about complementing existing infrastructure with unprecedented flexibility, agility, visibility, resource fungibility in a way that is multi-vendor, multi-skillset, and compatible with today's toolchains and workflow when needed.

For instance, in any data center, if you ask a server admin, "your life changed in the last 10 years?", the answer is obviously "Oh Yeah, instead of dealing with physical machines and physical racks, I'm mostly dealing with virtual machines with mouse clicks"; if you ask the same question to a network admin, the answer will be "Not at all, I'm still dealing with the same VLAN and ACL CLIs that I had 10 years ago, it works but I simply cannot keep up with the mouse clicks and all the fancy ideas from the server guys".

The fundamental issue here is the disparity between "machine speed" vs. "human speed", network admins are desperate about a technology that gives them the "machine speed" otherwise they are in the way of the business.

Lastly, are those golden goose use cases implementable without forklifting?

Absolutely possible at least.  In some cases, OpenFlow is  a feature of the switch but not a wholesale deal.  In other cases, OpenFlow is augmenting the networking, not replacing the network.

All in all, SDN/OpenFlow is about complementing not forklifting existing network infrastructure, it is just like VMware server virtualization technology complemented previous generation server infrastructure.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Is the new Cisco spin-in Insieme or Insiemi?

Insieme or Insiemi? I heard this question quite a bit recently and have not checked with my friends there but according to my business partner at Big Switch Networks, the real name is Insieme Business Unit (IBU).

Cisco can of course name it however it wants for now but the reality is that it is an off the balance sheet business unit that sooner or later will be folded back in.  This BU is working on things harder for other BUs to execute with their "normal" constraints.  This ain't bad news for Cisco although it hurts morale for the current employees loyal to the Cisco mothership.

Like any business in silicon valley, the key to success is the people.  In order to compete with tier-1 start-ups on talents, they must call themselves a start-up not the "IBU".  At the end of the day, for talents who want big company insurance yet can tolerate capped/limited financial upside, corporate decoder ring, top-down engineering culture, and top heavy management, it is one of the better BUs to work for.  Great news for people looking for a stable and good paying job!

Cisco's joining the SDN battleground is like Microsoft's going after the server virtualization battleground 7-8 years ago, which not only validated the new emerging industry immediately but also did the customer a big favor by having another player in the market.  Customer will win as a result!

I wish IBU good luck and I also wish the industry take this unique opportunity in thinking through how to leverage the tremendous momentum and deliver unprecedented customer benefits.