I spent a day last week at Interop in Las Vegas and came away with some insights into Cisco‘s Software Defined Networking Strategy. Interop is always a fascinating show because it covers the whole range of products and technologies that can loosely be termed as “networking”. The exhibits span everything from cables and server enclosures to high-end networking equipment and a wealth of cloud-related software.
Given 6WIND’s focus on Software Defined Networking (SDN), it was interesting to see a significant focus on this topic, as well as on OpenFlow which is unquestionably perceived as an unstoppable trend bringing major advantages in terms of network manageability, scalability and testability. I particularly enjoyed a multi-vendor presentation in NEC’s booth, describing their ProgrammableFlow solutions, which featured speakers from Brocade, Extreme Networks, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NEC and Radware. It was also interesting to see a multi-vendor interoperability demonstration at the OpenFlow Lab, where OpenFlow controllers and switches from companies like Big Switch, Brocade, Broadcom, Citrix, Extreme Networks, Huawei, HP, IBM, Intel, Ixia, Lyatiss, On-Lab, NEC, NETGEAR, Netscout, Spirent and Vello Systems appeared to be working together.
With all the industry hype around SDN and OpenFlow, it seems that Cisco has been relatively quiet about their plans recently. So the opening keynote address by Padmasree Warrior, Cisco’s CTO, was a welcome (and well-attended) kickoff for the show.
Warrior began her talk by summarizing her view of the four-stage evolution of networking technology. Following basic connectivity (browser, e-mail, and search) and then the “digital revolution” highlighted by e-commerce and IP telephony, she positioned the current stage as the “networked economy” (social media, mobility and cloud) and described the future as being a “human network” with immersive data and the “Internet of Things”.
Warrior showed a study indicating that by the end of this year 70% of enterprises will use cloud technology at some level. She mentioned that 56% of companies want desktop virtualization and discussed statistics demonstrating that a cloud-based data center with 1,000 servers or more has a Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) 50% less than a traditional data center.
A key projection in Warrior’s presentation was that the Internet will double in size every five years. She emphasized that video is, and will remain, the biggest issue for service providers, indicating that video traffic will quadruple between now and the end of 2014, while two-thirds of overall Internet traffic will be video by the end of 2015. She stressed that “the number one priority for CIOs is video” and that the convergence of cloud and mobility is driving new, collaborative work styles that involve massive real-time video traffic.
Warrior’s vision of the new “intelligent network” is one that’s designed around six key features: it’s visible, aware (e.g. real-time analytics), secure, programmable, agile and manageable.
So what is Cisco’s strategy in this area? Warrior stressed Cisco’s commitment to the concept of SDN, mentioning the recent “spin-in” acquisition of Insieme, and discussed Cisco’s use of OpenFlow to partition the network between the control plane and data plane while providing access and programmability at multiple levels yers within the overall stack. She talked about Cisco’s “Open Programmable Environment” architecture which includes APIs at multiple layers in addition to the control plane and data plane, though she didn’t provide much detail on this (many in the audience seemed to want to know more).
Warrior summarized by describing the four principles that Cisco is applying to next-generation networking: customized (tailored) solutions, open ecosystems, partnering and innovation.
Were you at Interop last week? What were the key trends that you observed? What product announcements did you see that are most relevant to the topic of multicore packet processing? What did you see as the highlights of this Cisco keynote address?