“This time is different because the problem is very real,” noted Casey Quillin, an analyst at Dell’Oro Group.
Dan Pitt, executive director at the Open Networking Foundation, said that the SDN revolution empowers people and helps service providers meet the challenges of soaring mobile usage and new application growth. It also helps respond to massive virtualized data centers and handle the demands of big data, he added.
According to a Dell’Oro Group report, total SDN spending is expected to grow more than seventeen-fold to $2.5 billion by 2016. It has already expanded from $80 million in 2010 to $140 million last year. According to Quillin, SDN is the natural evolution in the construction and control of data centers to support tomorrow’s scalable data centers. SDN moves control out of each physical Ethernet switch.
“This has to happen because data centers are becoming massive. When apps on servers were static, it was just about possible to reconfigure manually, but moving today’s virtual machinery effectively and at scale demands automation with part of the control plane moving out of the switch,” he said.
Dell’Oro predicts that by 2016, almost all vendors will support SDN, but as with FCoE or Layer 3, only a subset of its full potential functionality will have moved over. Even if all software are moved out of the physical switch, there would still be the cost of a switch to connect servers to users and resources.
Arguing that OpenFlow — by providing customers with a standardized, vendor-agnostic and step-by-step migration path towards SDN — is a revolution liberating the market from vendor lock-in, Pitt suggested thinking of OpenFlow as the Android of SDN.
“Remember mainframes? The mainframe industry in the 1980s was vertical and closed. A revolution happened with the arrival of open interfaces for Windows, Linux or MacOS. The industry became horizontal,” Pitt said, when promoting the OpenFlow standard to enable SDN revolution.
Routers today are much the same, Pitt claimed during his keynote session, saying that the routers are vertically integrated, complex, closed and proprietary. That’s where SDN comes in: it separates out the control and forwarding functions to offer a logically centralized control plane running across vendor merchant silicon instead of custom ASICs/FPGAs.
“I hope this is democratization of the network,” he said.
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