Over the last few weeks, we’ve continually been asked:
- Why did you create SDNCentral?
- What’s in it for you?
Before I answer those profound questions, I’d like to share a few stats about SDNCentral and the amazing growth we’ve encountered over the last 5 months:
- 4,000+ people following, re-tweeting, and DM’ing us between @sdn_news and @sdn_tech on Twitter
- 700+ people joined the SDNCentral Linkedin group in less than 3 weeks
- 500+ people subscribed to our newsletter, since SDNCentral.com launched in late February, 2012
- 100+ people who attended our SDN Seminars we co-hosted with InCNTRE during the 2012 RSA Show
We can’t predict if we are at the peak of an SDN hype cycle–where interest dries up; or if this is just the beginning of a bigger movement where SDN becomes a mass-market technology. Only time will tell.
Now, to the questions, like many great endeavors, SDNCentral started as a bet between Roy Chua and myself in late November, 2011, after we completed an SDN strategy project for a Wiretap Ventures client. We debated a) if people are truly interested in SDN and network virtualization, and b) whether would they use social media to help educate themselves about an early market. So, we immersed ourselves in social media and started running experiments to learn how to connect with people who might care about SDN. We engaged them on Twitter while embarking on a quest for killer sources of SDN content to share with them. 5 months and many tweets later we have over 5,000 people engaging with us.
While the original reason to start SDNCentral was to settle a bet, based on the statistics above, we’ve clearly a) proven there’s interest in SDN and b) confirmed that people flock to education via social media. During this process, we learned more than how to one up each other on social media marketing (which was a fun, too). With respect to OpenFlow, SDN, and Network Virtualization, all arguably early markets, we specifically learned that:
- It’s really hard and time-consuming to find relevant SDN content
- We were not the only people with the problem as evidenced by inbound inquiries
- Early jockeying and positioning by various stakeholders confused potential early customers about what SDN is and the potential benefits it can bring
This told us that a) the market is a long way to predictable revenue and sales models; and b) that people are starving for access to information to make up their own mind whether SDN benefits them.
We realized that there was not an independent source providing information about the SDN market (shoot there wasn’t even ‘one’ source we could go to for education). And heard from potential customers that various web sites and social media channels were confusing people regarding ‘what’ is OpenFlow, SDN, or Network Virtualization (we assert that Network Virtualization is the ‘what’; SDN a first order ‘how’ and OpenFlow a second order ‘how’ — more on that in a later blog post). This led us to build SDNCentral.com as the independent source of network virtualization information. Where our vision is to make freely available any SDN information from any source — to simplify and enable market education without a vendor bias.
It’s about this time in a conversation when we hear ‘This is all great — what’s in it for you?” Fair question. In the most simplest form — we ‘get’ four things from SDNCentral:
- Soapbox — both Roy and I have scar tissue from starting and leading transformative networking companies in early markets at XORP and Pareto Networks. Both of which, by the way, had separated control planes and data planes (as did many other technologies before OpenFlow). This gives us an outlet to share that scar tissue and (hopefully) help others succeed where we failed – while not having to relive our nightmares leading VC backed companies.
- Unique Knowledge & Insight — Because of our scar tissue, we know what questions to ask and how to qualify customer interest from customer demand which enables us to gain unique insight into the market such as: early access to use-cases, speak with interesting people looking to build new and solve interesting networking problems, and advise customers seeking our opinion about various technologies and companies.
- Monetary — Let’s be transparent — SDNCentral is cost center. Most of our SDNCentral activities are money losers; and best case, break-even. Meaning it’s not funding our retirement or our kids college education and we don’t expect that to change.
- Consulting — the combination of the above drives the SDN practice for our strategy and management consulting at Wiretap Ventures where we are trusted advisors to C-level executives at public and private companies. We help shape their long range plans, strategies, positioning, and identify routes to markets on many topics of which network virtualization and SDN is one of those topics.
BTW, we are always looking to improve SDNCentral and add relevant content. Please share your ideas and suggestions with us. One topic that’s been requested is more detailed use-cases and success stories — stay tuned we are working to add those.