Brocade believes customers will include these as checklist items for 2014 purchases.
"Although it may still be too early for full SDN deployments, a key decision-making criteria for infrastructure will be to ensure that infrastructure will support SDN going forward," the vendor says. "Open architecture will be key to this future-proof strategy."
But Laliberte believes SDN application developers may not wait for a standard before embarking on their work.
"I would anticipate that ecosystem partners will not wait for a standard to integrate their solutions where they believe a first mover advantage will yield significant market share gains," he says.
Indeed, further vendor-specific customization of SDN platforms — which include developers writing to non-standard APIs — are expected in 2014. The advent of SDNs a few years ago brought a lot of open standard hyperbole with it.
But now that vendors acknowledge the demand for SDN, they're likely to do whatever they can to get customers to buy, and keep buying, their offerings.
Cisco's Nexus 9000 switches and Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) fabric, for example, are widely regarded to be Cisco-unique, or proprietary programmable network products. Cisco is expected to ship the lion's share of its Nexus 9000 line in 2014, as well as the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) for programming the switches.
The Nexus 9000 includes merchant silicon as well as Cisco-developed custom ASICs, and the APIC for ACI is a Cisco-unique development as well. Cisco will sell the Nexus 9000s in two modes: standalone and ACI-mode. Standalone will leverage the merchant silicon and allow customers to pick and choose — and integrate themselves — open source software and SDN controllers, like OpenDaylight and others that support OpenFlow.
ACI-mode will leverage Cisco ASICs and APIC, and deliver the full value of an ACI fabric — hardware acceleration, deep visibility into application interaction and behavior, and granular service level metrics.
But customers may demand that their suppliers come to some open middle ground with SDN. Whatever customized direction a vendor takes, a potential buyer might pull them in another.
"In 2014, customers will want vendors to bring order to the chaos and show the industry how SDN should be implemented," says Arpit Joshipura, vice president of product management for Dell Networking. "In a fragmenting market with numerous open source and open standards efforts, and competing vendor strategies, customers will vote with their wallets. Smart vendors will follow. Customers will force networking vendors to agree on a more cooperative, open approach that will make SDN practical and real."
Cisco says it already has 305 "serious" customers for ACI at deals ranging from $100,000 to $100 million. Network virtualization rival VMware also has a cadre of high profile customer for its NSX product, including eBay, Rackspace and AT&T.
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