Since acquiring Vyatta late in 2012, Brocade has been aggressive about openness and open-source software, touting both as keys to the future of software-defined networking (SDN). In a keynote talk earlier this week at NFV and the Data Center, a conference put on by Light Reading, Brocade VP of Software Networking Kelly Herrell tried to nail that point home in relation to traditional service providers, including telecom carriers.
“This is really about networking’s open systems era,” Herrell said. “It’s not going to be any one vendor. It’s going to be an ecosystem.”
Herrell is the former CEO of open-source router vendor Vyatta, which not only got acquired by Brocade but also got its name applied to Brocade’s approach to SDN and virtualized, flexible networks in general. (Light Reading, my former employer, calls it “The New IP” and has started a web community around the concept: www.thenewip.net.)
Telcos don’t have to abandon principles such as five-nines reliability (99.999 percent uptime), but they’ll have to rethink their methods and throw away old assumptions. “I put Google up as an example of an attacker that is free from those perspectives,” Herrell said.
Telcos want to start using clouds to offer services, but without a new approach, those services will adhere to the law of twos: “two years, $20 million, and too late,” Herrell said. “Getting it down to minutes, getting it down to instantaneous capabilities — this is the pursuit, and it’s possible.”
Open-source development offers a lesson in the kind of change Herrell was talking about. The viral effect of community development doesn’t always catch hold, but when it does, it’s unbeatable, he said. You can see it in the world’s sudden interest in Docker containers. “It ends up snowballing and becomes the de facto [standard] against which you’re going to build,” he said. “When you move to an open platform, the rate of change is a new weapon, and it will absolutely steamroll a single-vendor approach” — that last phrase being an obligatory poke at Cisco.
Herrell also touched on a point that I’ve heard a couple of times now and that I think is important: If networking workloads continue moving to the cloud, then the enterprise stops being the major customer for networking. Instead, the buying power shifts to cloud builders.
“They’re beginning to usurp the buying pattern, because if enterprises are in fact moving to the cloud, that’s less investment that they’re making in themselves,” Herrell said. How much this shift affects the network equipment industry is yet to be seen.