I recently spent two full days at the 11th International Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. A good use of my time as it gave me a flavor of what’s on people’s minds these days with respect to clouds. I thought I would share a few observations from those two days, as I think they are relevant to SDN as it moves forward.
I was somewhat surprised that we’re still defining the cloud. Almost every session, including some of the general sessions, to some degree started with a definition of cloud computing and an overview of the different types of clouds. Maybe I am living under a false assumption that by this time in the life cycle we know what clouds are and how they operate. No criticism of the presenters – they all did great jobs. I’m just surprised that the industry is still at this stage.
OpenStack was the buzz. The majority of the sessions I attended addressed OpenStack in some context. Jonathan Bryce, Executive Director of the OpenStack Foundation gave a very good “state of the union” keynote on the “Open Cloud.” Jonathan made a couple of points that I found interesting. First, cloud management solution provider RightScale says that 87% of their users are “multi-cloud.” I’m not sure of the breakdown between users who have multiple clouds using the same technology versus users with clouds based on different technologies. But it’s still a pretty impressive number, which says multi-cloud integration is going to be very important.
Second, Jonathan shared that there are over 900 OpenStack-related job openings in the US. In the universe of job openings that’s obviously a rounding error, but it is still significant in that it shows that enterprises are interested in abstracting cloud services from the infrastructure, and “northbound” integration to cloud operating systems and service management platforms is going to be important for SDN controllers.
The last observation is that SDN is of interest, but still somewhat of an unknown within the cloud community. There were a few conference sessions on the topic, and James Meredith from Rackspace gave a good presentation on the basic principles behind SDN and how they are using Nicira’s NVP to provide network virtualization for their customers. But, from the questions raised in the sessions, it’s pretty clear that there’s still lots of opportunity for messaging and education around SDN.
What do these observations mean with respect to SDN? As the title of this post indicates, I think we need to accelerate the conversation around SDN. I hope that five years down the road we’re still not talking about what SDN is and isn’t. Given the nature of networking this is going to be challenging. Just take a look at the number of competing proposals for network overlays. The question is will the conversation be driven “top down” through a services focus, or will it be driven “bottom up” through solving short-term operational problems? Time will tell. In the meantime, let’s keep the conversation rolling here at SDNCentral.