Every year when I attend the major networking and interoperability conference known as Interop, I attempt to figure out what the theme of the show is. Sometimes that can be a tough job, but not at the recent Interop Las Vegas. Clearly, Software Defined Networking (or SDN) was the king of this year’s Interop.
Everywhere I looked, the letters SDN were decorating vendor booths. And in some cases, the vendors were actually doing some form of legitimate SDN! However, quite a bit of the SDN marketing going on at Interop was basically SDNWashing.
Still, it’s easy to see why SDN was such a buzzword for this year’s show. From a cynical point of view, vendor marketing always tries its best to latch onto whatever the buzzword du jour is.
But, in my opinion, SDN goes way beyond simple marketing hype. In the case of SDN, to paraphrase Public Enemy, I do believe the hype.
Right now much of the attention on SDN is focused on very simple things, like virtual machine migration and improved network topology and overlays. You know, the types of things that network focused people would think of.
But I firmly believe that in the next couple of years, someone will do something with SDN that none of us are predicting. And it will probably be a software-focused company or developer.
With a software focus, someone will be freed from the network blinders that many current SDN practitioners have, and will truly be thinking outside of the box (or DMZ to use a networking term). In fact, it may already be happening. Google has made a significant investment in SDN technology and I would not be surprised at all to see the search giant make some key innovations in SDN and how networks operate in the future.
Of course, SDN wasn’t the only thing going on at Interop. For one, many of the wireless networking vendors that I talked to were working to add more capable network and application performance management capabilities to their offerings, turning these wireless networking infrastructures into true networking infrastructures.
I was also intrigued by the moves of many traditional network management and monitoring vendors to open up their platforms with true interoperability APIs. In the past, if one asked these vendors about their interoperability options, the discussion wouldn’t go much past SNMP and NetFlow.
But at Interop many of these vendors were now offering RESTful APIs, the same ones that most web services and applications use to connect and interoperate. To me, this could dramatically open up many tools within the network infrastructure and make it much easier to build true end-to-end network and performance management systems.
So again, in many ways, software dominated this year’s Interop. As I joked in a tweet from the show floor, maybe they should do a variant on the conference’s old name and start calling it sdN+I.
Jim Rapoza is Senior Research Analyst at Aberdeen Group