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Open Networking: The Whale that swallowed SDN

Art Fewell | June 18, 2014
SDN and networking conversations today have become overloaded with hype. The future is no longer just about one approach to SDN but has become much bigger. Welcome to the Open Networking Revolution.

But the battle for the future of our industry has nothing to do with trust and everything to do with bargaining power. As we transition to the cloud era all of the rules of the networking industry are being rewritten. The new norms will be the result of vendor-centric Betamax wars along with battles in standards bodies and open source projects, and in all of these forums, vendors are well represented, huge technology firms are represented, but the average enterprise is not.

So how could enterprises be better represented? Groups like ONUG have emerged to give a voice to the finance vertical but for most industries there are no consortiums of this nature, leaving most enterprises isolated, fragmented and on the sidelines waiting as vendors chip away at the little bargaining leverage consumers are left with. The industry continues to be characterized by monopolistic conditions and it seems profoundly clear that hardware and software incumbents have stacked the deck heavily in their favor.

So what can we do?
When we look to see how open computing overcame vendor power to give greater leverage to the consumer, we see clearly that the clean abstraction between hardware and software was at the very core. This abstraction created powerful checks and balances that amplified the power of the consumer. Yet almost no networking vendors today are willing to offer this powerful choice.

An open networking model can empower businesses to invest into new technologies at a reduced risk a powerful strategic benefit which can accelerate business execution. This paradigm slices through the thick layers of vendor hype and confusing tactics, giving the ultimate bargaining chip to the consumer: If a vendor's software doesn't align with a business need, simply switch out the software leaving the considerable cost and complexity of the physical network, cable plant and topology in place, drastically reducing consumer exposure to the risks of new technologies.

Another key benefit of this model is that it allows consumers a way out of the Betamax wars happening today as vendors fight for control of future standards. These battles for vendor superiority offer little value to the consumer yet forces them to take on great risk and exposure.

Consider the recent battle between HD-DVD and Blue-ray; if we had a business need to invest in one technology before standardization, it would create significant exposure for our business. But, what if we could invest in hardware that could easily be converted between HD-DVD and Blue-ray it would significantly reduce the risk for our business to invest and drive business execution with new technologies. Open Networking allows you to do just this, providing standard hardware that can easily be converted between multiple different approaches to SDN and next-generation networking.


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