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SDN user group focuses on use cases

John Dix | Nov. 11, 2013
Nick Lippis talks about what he has learnt about SDN from the recent Open Networking User Group in New York City.

The recent Open Networking User Group (ONUG) meeting in New York City attracted 400 participants, some of whom attended in-depth tutorial sessions about software defined networking (SDN) on day one, and others that stayed for the members-only closed door sessions on day two (vendors and press excluded). Network World Editor in Chief John Dix caught up with Nick Lippis, who co-founded the SDN user group with representatives from Fidelity Investments, for his assessment of what was learned.

What was your takeaway from the recent meeting?
There were a bunch, but one of the big ones I walked away with is that, when we met last February there was a lot of the discussion about physical switches being controlled by controllers using OpenFlow. Now the thinking has shifted to overlay networks and white boxes and Linux automation. When I asked the audience how many are implementing the OpenFlow-based approach on physical switches, I think only one person raised their hand. So that is a major shift in terms of how this community is starting to wrap their minds around which technologies they're focusing on.

And there was a shift in timeframes, too. We have some real big stakes in the ground around piloting now and into 2014, with deployment in 2015. So it only makes sense that we're seeing all the vendor announcements this year, and those will ramp during 2014 as the number of pilots increase, and then as you transition from pilots to deployments you'll start to have market share starting to be locked in. So I think we're at an acceleration point. 

A lot of the folks I talked to say they're not going to do a kind of hybrid approach, a little bit here and a little bit there. They're going to get the pilots done as soon as they feel they have the skill sets, then they're going to go for some pretty big deployments.

Does the shift you mention the lack of focus on OpenFlow now, for example represent a potential stumbling block for the movement? There was, after all, so much effort on that front. 
The OpenFlow piece on the hypervisor side is alive and well. And there are other protocols that are going to be really important for open networking, like VXLAN and OVSDB. But all the activity has shifted into the virtualization domain.Keep in mind that, beside the technology integration, the movement involves organizational integration with the rise of DevOps. We're going to start seeing DevOps have a large and significant influence over network equipment purchases and how networks are designed, because companies want the automation benefits of SDN. Fundamental automation is what is really driving all of this. That's one of the resounding take-aways from this, because all of the SDN use cases we identified are all about automation, every single one of them.


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