[Editor’s note: Curt is an extended member of the Wiretap/SDNCentral family and graciously agreed to help us cover ONS while Matt and Roy were fulfilling multiple duties at ONS 2013 on Tuesday.]
Overall the show was well attended. Many of the sessions were full or nearly so, which bodes well for the still emerging world of SDNs. I talked to (and saw name badges from) all corners of the networking industry – from vendors and VCs, to service providers and enterprises.
Everyone seems to be here with a singular mission: What’s new with SDNs? And how do I make sense of all the activity in the market? There is so much going on, it’s hard for people to find a place to start. It’s safe to say that coming to this year’s ONS has helped many jumpstart their knowledge of SDNs and see first-hand just how diverse and interesting the market has become.
There were tons of presentations across multiple tracks, making it impossible to cover everything, but here are some highlights from the day’s sessions.
Vint Cerf – one of the acknowledged “fathers of the Internet”, now at Google
Vint gave a broad overview talk covering where the network has been and what needs to be considered as SDNs evolve into the future. His presentation felt like 40 years of Internet experience on display. Vint is known for broad and deep knowledge in networking, and he used that to promote his view that the flexibility of SDNs has the potential to seriously affect all aspects of networking. Although this is not a new message, Vint was able to color his presentation with aspects of networking we don’t normally think much about.
Some of the most memorable moments came at the end, where he talked about the potential underlying the “Internet of Things.” His network-enabled wine cellar, soon to be RFID enabled, was a highlight. The IP-enabled light bulb was another cool side note. Vint’s discussion of “Interplanetary internet” issues was particularly interesting and brought new meaning to the phrase “store and forward” networking – imagine having to keep data for hours at a time in any given network hop. He concluded the session by outlining a number of “Big issues” the industry faces, from safety and IP protection (the legal kind, not the protocol), to the coming economic impacts that SDNs represent.
Jayshree Ullal – President and CEO at Arista Networks, formerly many years of VP roles at Cisco
Jayshree’s presentation felt like a fast-paced tour of Arista’s product capabilities. One definitely got the sense that she was short on time. After introducing a new SDN variant, Software Defined Cloud Networking, she made the case that the third generation of networking is at hand. The fact that virtualization plus all variations of cloud are driving networking advances was an unsurprising message. The highlight of her talk was an overview of 6 use cases that included some hard numbers for operational improvements. It would have been nice to see a smaller number of uses with case-study-level of detail to help get a sense of just how real these are.
Tom Black, VP of SDN Engineering, joined Jayshree to present a recorded video demo of a network tapping use case showing CLI commands and some animation on the side. While it was executed well, the demo didn’t have the wow-factor that I was expecting. Afterwards, everyone enjoyed Jayshree’s jokes about what SDN really means (Stanford Defined Networking anyone?) Overall, I was left wanting to hear more new insights and less product promotion–a sentiment shared by some other attendees I ended up chatting with after. Arista’s track record has been impressive and their reputation in the marketplace is outstanding, but I felt the presentation didn’t fully do them justice.
Plenary session: Open SDN
Inder Gopal – VP of Technology at IBM
Inder’s presentation, “An Introduction to OpenDaylight,” was the first public discussion of the new initiative since it was announced a week or so ago. OpenDaylight is an open source software project being led under the guidance of the Linux foundation. It’s goal is to accelerate the adoption of SDN technologies through creation of a common, industry-supported framework. In short, it’s about creating an open-source, standardized SDN Controller. Inder’s FAQ-style presentation was well delivered. He stated plainly that there is no “angle” behind the project, but it was curious to note that the effort is driven entirely by vendors, most of whom are large incumbents. OpenDaylight appears to be approaching the project from a true open source perspective, which is good. Having a leader from IBM is also a positive since IBM has more experience with open source, as compared to most networking companies. One interesting data point is that they chose to use the Eclipse Public License instead of the GPL or Apache-style licenses. I haven’t looked into the EPL for a while, but I’m sure there are important reasons behind this choice. Inder also stated up front that the project will be run in a way that is about meritocracy, not politics. We can only wait and see.
Rob Sherwood – CTO, Controller Technologies at Big Switch Networks
Big Switch CEO Guido Appenzeller was unable to attend due to his wife having a baby (Editors’ Note: Congratulations to Guido on a new baby boy!), but Rob seemed happy to fill in and did a great job on his talk, “Transforming the Network with Open SDN.” He started out by pointing out just how stagnant networking has been vs. other areas of technology, like servers, over the last 15 years. After some great jokes about major networking innovations like being able to SSH to a box (vs. using telnet), Rob introduced a new initiative called “Switch Light.”
Switch Light is a Linux distribution, specially built to run on network switches, that includes only an OF agent (available in ‘Q3). This blatant attempt by Big Switch to accelerate the commoditization of networking hardware is an interesting and bold move. Rob then backed up his presentation with the best demo of the day – using a live rack of gear, they physically bolted in a new switch which booted up and configured itself (zero-touch provisioning leveraging PXE boot). It then did dynamic multi-pathing as new cables were added to connect multiple switches. This was one of the more engaging and interesting sessions of the day. Whether Switch Light will catch on is a big question, but it will be interesting to see it all play out in any case.
Dan Pitt – Executive Director, ONF
In his talk, “Open Networking Foundation, Year 3,” Dan gave a general update on the ONF’s progress over the past year and their plans for 2013. The ONF appears to be heavily focused on OpenFlow 1.4 & 1.5, as well as expanding interfaces like OF-config. The ONF has always been focused on creating value for users, and nothing seems to have changed on this front. Dan also took the opportunity to announce an OpenFlow driver competition (details and prize information will be posted on their web site). In short, the ONF’s plans are all about pushing and expanding the OpenFlow ecosystem, so there were no surprises here. One interesting thing to note is that an audience member asked Dan directly about their relationship to the Open Daylight initiative. Dan replied by positioning the ONF as a “substrate” that enables frameworks like ODL to exist. While that’s true, the real question is whether the relationship will stay that simple. Only time will tell.
Plenary Session: Leading incumbents approach to SDN
Colin Kincaid – VP of Marketing for the Network OS Technology group at Cisco
Colin gave a very short talk entitled “Cisco SDN, A Pragmatic Approach to Network Programmability,” where he outlined Cisco’s view of open networking. The message was a simple pitch for Cisco ONE and OnePK. I didn’t detect much new here, but one interesting take-away was that Cisco defines “open” as “providing APIs.” When I think of open, I think of a user’s ability to participate in the development and standardization process, and being able to affect the direction of a product. In that regard, Cisco’s ONE and OnePK are a closed and proprietary system, the availability of APIs notwithstanding. In short, while Cisco’s definition is interesting, it didn’t change my view.
Mike Marcellin – SVP, Strategy & Marketing, Platform Systems Division at Juniper Networks
Mike’s talk, simply titled “The SDN Opportunity,” was another fast-paced presentation. You definitely got the sense that he had a lot to say but a limited amount of time. Mike gave a good overview of Juniper’s SDN strategy, mentioning that it is based on the OpenFlow, PCEP, BGP, and VXLAN protocols. He also mentioned service chaining, which is important to Juniper given its security and network services product lines. While those areas seemed to be well within Juniper’s purview, the management side of the story seemed fairly lofty. It remains to be seen if Juniper can actually execute on the converged management story presented. Mike also mentioned a few use cases, but these felt a little light in terms of concrete benefits and business justification. That said, the talk was fairly interesting and substantive in terms of how they view the SDN world. (Full disclosure: I worked at Juniper from 2006-2010, so my view may be biased)
Shunichiro Tejima – SVP of the Carrier Network Business Unit at NEC
Tejima-san gave a talk on “Evolving to a SD Carrier network” where he emphasized NEC’s carrier product portfolio and SDN-enabled approach. The main message focused on simple and flexible networks, achieved using their flagship SDN product, ProgrammableFlow. Tejima-san mentioned use cases in both enterprise data centers and carrier optical networks, where it appears that NEC has some real-world deployments in Asia. The presentation could have used a demo to make the session more exciting and show that their solution is for real. At SDNCentral we know that ProgrammableFlow has customers, is shipping today, and unlike many vendors can include Windows deployments using their virtual switch for Hyper-V environments.
All in all, definitely a content-filled day and I can’t wait till another presentation-filled day tomorrow!