Network services company SDN Essentials provides professional services focusing on software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). Along with work in testing, architecture, migration, and installation, the company also provides SDN technical training and course development. The company now offers vendor-specific SDN services, and SDxCentral recently talked to SDN Essentials founder and CTO Doug Marschke about its work with NEC and the state of the SDN market today.
SDxCentral: What kind of POCs (proofs-of-concept) does SDN Essentials work on? What are the early SDN use cases you’re seeing in the market?
Marschke: We serve customers in both the service provider and enterprise space. In terms of SDN use cases, we started out with classic traffic engineering POCs in the data center, but recently, the trend has moved towards service chaining and traffic management and analytics. We are seeing quite a few of those in our work with clients.
How did you get connected with NEC?
Marschke: I first connected with NEC while I was working at a VAR and NEC had the only working commercial OpenFlow controller on the market. I was impressed that NEC was making such an early bet on SDN and by its willingness to invest in not just OpenFlow switches, but also the controller.
After we launched SDN Essentials, I kept seeing NEC in the standards bodies meetings where we found ourselves together. Given their product maturity and continued investment in the space, we began to have deeper discussions. Today we train customers on NEC equipment and help them with implementation of SDN within their enterprises.
How does NEC’s ProgrammableFlow fit with the requirements for the use cases you’re seeing?
Marschke: The great thing about NEC is that they have stable solutions that work, and they don’t tie you into a single-vendor solution. Many customers think multi-tenancy requires an SDN overlay solution, but NEC is able to do this with their VTN (virtual tenant networks) feature using direct fabric programming.
I’ve seen NEC’s solutions used in many critical infrastructures, including hospitals and national transportation companies like Japan Railway. The run-time and up-time that these customers have had with the NEC product makes me confident that NEC has the stability for even the largest service providers and enterprises.
What specific capabilities from NEC do you view as unique and valuable to these use cases?
Marschke: In addition to the obvious maturity of its solution, NEC’s VTN is very modeled and developed – after all, that was a core contribution to the OpenDaylight project – and it works smoothly. Also, NEC’s ability to balance quite easily over multiple paths and its fast recovery in failure are highly important to the use cases that we are deploying.
Based on early deployments, do you think SDN and the NEC products are production-ready?
Marschke: I would say an emphatic yes.
What do you see for the future with regard to SDN and the market? What are the largest impediments to production deployments?
Marschke: I would say the largest hurdle is the interoperability piece. The promise of SDN has been vendor-agnostic deployments, but as vendors try to figure out their own strategies, they have produced vendor lock-in. Although we do need vendor differentiation, the industry still needs all vendors, and we need open source groups to decide on some control plane standards so we can get to the important differentiation: the SDN applications. I like NEC’s open-standards approach to its products and believe that is a good path forward.
What do you think will be the hot SDN use cases for 2015?
Marschke: We’re seeing continued traction in the data center use cases for now, but I think the WAN with hybrid cloud is going to be hot for 2015. Basically, the industry is looking for the answer to how we move packets to the right spot while achieving the same SLAs and services – all across data centers that might be in different geographic locations.