SDxCentral caught up with Nick Lippis, co-founder and co-chairman of the Open Networking User Group (ONUG), and got his insights on all things software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). Lippis, an industry analyst, is well-positioned to comment on the the market and its trends. Read below to find out what he had to say about the SDx community, and what’s new with ONUG.
Lippis: At the first ONUG, hosted by Fidelity, the discussion was primarily focused on data center networking. At the second ONUG, at JPMorgan Chase, we introduced use case voting, whereby the ONUG board would develop use cases ahead of the meeting, present them at the event, and allow the community to place their votes for the use cases that represent their top three pain points. We found out that SD-WAN was one of the highest pain points for the ONUG Community. At the third ONUG, at Citigroup, we created ONUG working groups to provide details around the use cases, so that IT business leaders could issue RFP/RFIs to the vendor community based, in part, on the ONUG collective requirements. This put the purchasing power and engineering resources of the ONUG Community behind one goal, which is to create choice and option, provide capex and opex relief, and hasten IT delivery and thus business value.
At the fourth ONUG, at Credit Suisse, the ONUG working groups delivered white papers detailing requirements for network overlays, network service virtualization (NSV), and SD-WAN. While the working groups presented, live voting took place to prioritize the top ten requirements for each working group. These top ten requirements are now being tested for feature verification against nearly 17 participating vendors, to be released at ONUG Spring 2015, which will be hosted by Columbia University. In short, ONUG is driven by IT business leader requirements and we continue to expand our initiatives based solely on their needs.
One fundamental change that has occurred is that we stopped defining open and interoperability in terms of technologies or vendors/standards initiatives. To ONUG, “open” means that there are options in deployment scenarios that include a wide range of vendors and service providers. To ONUG, “interoperability” means that there is coexistence between vendors and service providers within an enterprise infrastructure to the point that there is no vendor/service provider lock-in at each part of the IT stack. ONUG champions technologies and approaches that deliver on these definitions of open and interoperability. The separation of hardware and software in the networking and storage markets is a good example of one of the ideas, concepts, or deployments that ONUG supports.
Lippis: During the last 12 months, the narrative of open networking has expanded to include open storage. Many IT executives have shifted their focus toward open infrastructure, such as scale-out storage over Ethernet for Hadoop clusters. Part of this narrative is a focus on business value. Twelve months ago there was focus on technologies, but now the focus is shifting toward what business value is created or enhanced by deploying an open infrastructure. Topics such as rapid prototyping of applications, faster IT delivery, and competitive advantage, among others, are now starting to enter into the lexicon.
Lippis: The three main use cases are network overlays, SD-WAN, and NSV, which are all working group efforts at ONUG that are now moving into feature verification against each of these working groups’ top ten requirements.
There are three other working groups that will be publishing papers at ONUG Spring at Columbia. They are:
- Traffic Monitoring/Visibility Use Case Working Group, chaired by Aryo Kresnadi of FedEx
- Network State Collection, Correlation and Analytics Use Case Working Group, chaired by Nick Lippis, ONUG, and Neal Secher of BNY Mellon
- Common Management Tools Across Network, Storage, and Compute Use Case Working Group, chaired by Carlos Matos of Fidelity
Where do you think customers are at in early 2015 on deployment of SDN/NFV? Are we in POCs, field trials, live deployments? If so, what’s the status and timing to mass adoption?
Lippis: The use case that is getting the most traction is SD-WAN; however, we’ll have a series of deployment presentations and feature verification testing at ONUG Spring on May 13 and 14. ONUG Spring will host a fireside chat and an interview-style discussion with IT executives responsible for the largest SD-WAN deployment to date, where details on the business requirements, up-selling to executive management, and pilot results will be shared.
What do you recommend that enterprises do in 2015 to prepare for SDN? Where should they get started?
Lippis: SD-WAN is an obvious choice as its economics and business value are starting to be understood. In fact, SD-WAN will fundamentally change the service provider market in terms of what they sell. The MPLS market is about to undergo a fundamental shift and change. Service providers are looking to offer IT business leaders a build-versus-buy choice and, in the process, provide a wide range of wide area connectivity that’s stitched together via SD-WAN.
The second area is overlays. Now is the time to pilot and get familiar with various overlay technologies. I’m impressed with the progress in the NSV space, which is, in essence, virtualized firewalls and load balancers, service chained together with physical appliances. There are more and more NSV products entering the market from both legacy vendors and start-ups. In the data center, NSV is the low-hanging fruit as the ONUG Community seeks to transition away from physical to virtual appliances.
So SD-WAN, overlays, and NSV are the three areas to focus efforts on in the high-end enterprise market.
White box, bright box, and open source have been big topics of late. What’s your perspective on what happens to open source vs. proprietary software? How should customers evaluate the two?
Lippis: We are hosting a Great Debate on this topic at ONUG on May 13 at 4 p.m. Charlie Giancarlo, of Silver Lake, will argue for closed source and Lew Tucker, of OpenStack and Cisco, will argue for open source. Every large enterprise and U.S. government agency is struggling with this question and trying to understand if they can use open source as part of their software infrastructure. We hope that the Great Debate will shed some light on the pros and cons.
The spring 2015 ONUG is around the corner. Can you tell us about some of the key themes we should expect to be discussed at this spring’s event?
Lippis: There are a few themes to the ONUG Spring agenda. First is that open infrastructure is not just about cost reduction, but rather about value creation. There are great presentations from Adrian Cockcroft and Keith Shinn on this topic. Keith will talk about a new IT organizational model for the next decade as it becomes clear that to reap the value of open infrastructure, IT needs to be reorganized away from silos.
For the first time in our industry, we’ll have feature verification against the ONUG top ten requirements for overlay, SD-WAN, and NSV use cases. Of note, is that all of these requirements are IT executive defined from across multiple industries and represent the collective interest of the ONUG Community. In short, overlay, SD-WAN, and NSV are getting real, and ONUG will show how the vendors are starting to meet these requirements.
The last topic I want to address is around DevOps. There has been much talk in the industry around DevOps taking over infrastructure configuration and management, and the ONUGC thinks differently. There will be a town hall meeting with stakeholders around the industry to discuss this topic to see if this is the best model going forward or if there’s another approach worth focusing upon.
Given the market evolution and focus areas for 2015, how is the coming ONUG going to be different from previous events? New tracks, new types of panels, or new discussion formats?
Lippis: One key thing that’s different is that we launched ONUG Academy, which is focused on IT operational staff. There are eight hands-on tutorials addressing all of the major open infrastructure technologies, designed so that operational groups are exposed to the tools, processes, and techniques to operationalize open infrastructure. ONUG Academy is perhaps one of the most important contributions ONUG can make to the industry, as many IT operational teams need new skills and tools to effectively manage open infrastructure.
In addition, there are 17 demonstrators who are opting to have their SDN product features verified against the three ONUG working group use cases: overlays, SD-WAN, and NSV. The ONUG board is very proud to be hosted by Columbia University as we seek to engage the research community and welcome them to the ONUG Community. We believe that now is the most important time for researchers to be engaged in open networking, as the ONUG Community is open to new ideas, concepts, companies, and approaches.