Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Indiana University and New York to participate in two notable SDN user group meetings to discuss the development, management, and deployment of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and OpenFlow® with end-user industry network engineers and IT professionals. These meetings featured presentations and roundtable discussions with an impressive range of IT executives, network architects, and consultants from major Fortune 500 companies, financial services organizations, hedge funds, airlines, and insurance companies.
The group’s discussions were open and revealing (typically conducted without the presence of vendors), and I was afforded the unique opportunity to hear the diverse uses cases and implementations of the networking industry’s most innovative technology. Most importantly, I was impressed to see how SDN and OpenFlow® are penetrating enterprise networks. During my trip to Indiana University, I enjoyed visiting the engineers at InCNTRE’s Interoperability Lab, which is leading the certification of OpenFlow® products. With InCNTRE as ONF’s first sanctioned conformance testing facility for OpenFlow, there has been a marked increase in participants and products being tested for interoperability as well. Hearing this only validates my belief that we are making significant progress toward more commercialization of SDN. I look forward to hearing the results at our next PlugFest event in March.
Aside from the positive discussions on interoperability at Indiana University, both meetings revealed the drivers for SDN including:
- Wireless integration
- Flexible security
- Back-up management
- Rapid prototyping
- Adaptive traffic engineering
- Automated provisioning
- Fabric management
- Simplifying the network
- Flexible topologies
- Automating network tasks
- Adaptive quality of service
- Performance efficiency
- Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)
- Common system architecture
One topic surprised me, having appeared spontaneously at both meetings: the looming skills shortage for SDN. The typical network engineer does not have the programming background or skills to create the flexible network capabilities in software that are replacing the static, limited capabilities of today’s legacy networking products. Savvy SDN deployers are putting together long-term hiring plans to address this gap, but it’s not clear where the new talent will come from.
While attending these meetings, I offered four pieces of advice for those considering deployment:
- Push your vendors for not just open and programmable but also standard products, to avoid vendor lock-in.
- Trial something to gain experience and find out what works for you.
- Engage in conversation with other users and learn from their experiences, either informally or through one of these user groups.
- Consider joining ONF to get the inside track on SDN and to lead the movement with your requirements.
If you have not already heard, there is another exciting user group meeting coming up: The Open Network User Group (ONUG), organized by Fidelity Investments along with Nick Lippis of the Lippis Report. This meeting will be held on February 13, 2013 in Boston, hosted by Fidelity, and will feature exciting speakers in the financial industry and demonstrations from innovative SDN-focused organizations. ONF is a proud collaborator of this event, and many member companies will be demonstrating. This year’s meeting will offer insightful discussions on end-user case studies and success factors of SDN and OpenFlow. I look forward to hearing the innovative use cases, and meeting companies that are driving the success of SDN. Will you be attending?