- A TechNote on The Next Generation
- Jim Metzler
- Distinguished Research Fellow and Co-Founder
- Webtorials Analyst Division
Among the theories circulating about SDN is that its adoption will turn switches and routers into low-cost commodities. This, plus the fact that Cisco had been relatively quiet about SDN, caused many in the industry to speculate that the company was dragging its SDN feet. But this speculation ended at its recent ONE announcement in San Diego, Calif. There, the company affirmed its commitment to network programmability, but cautioned that the technology must serve widely differing constituencies, with equally varying needs. Constituencies such as:
- Research and academic institutions, with an unusually wide range of users, including hospitals that must be technologically adept while also meeting regulatory requirements; researchers who need to work with (and sometimes around) networking technologies; and students and faculty who have to access applications, data and videos remotely over any device they choose.
- Massively scalable data centers (such as Google's and Yahoo's), which need to closely shape their network traffic in real time and (fortunately) possess the internal talent to do so.
- Typical enterprise organizations, which still struggle to support initiatives like private clouds, but usually do not possess the internal skills or the desire to fundamentally change how their networks run.
- Cloud providers, which constantly struggle with scalable multi-tenancy.
- Service providers, which must deliver services in ever more agile ways.
Cisco explained that its ONE initiative seeks to span such widely varying customer needs with a common set of platform APIs that will be exposed in all switches and routers running its IOS, IOS-XR and NX-OS operating systems. A key component of ONE is its onePK development kit, which delivers APIs for deep programmatic access across Cisco operating systems and hardware platforms. Such a development kit at least promises the tight integration with software applications that would enable:
- Greater visibility, orchestration and control of network infrastructures.
- Rapid service creation and delivery.
- Automation of multiple network tasks and processes.
Cisco added that it will provide proof-of-concept controller software for SDN and proof-of-concept OpenFlow v1.0 agents for Catalyst 3750-X and 3560-X Series Switches. (And in a possible attempt to dispel beliefs that the company is dragging its feet on SDN, Cisco also mentioned that they are leading several Open Network Foundation workgroups.)
The third part of Cisco's ONE announcement focused on the company's Nexus 1000v virtual switch, which is gaining:
- Support for virtual overlay networks.
- Switch support on Red Hat's KVM and Citrix Systems' XenServer hypervisors (in addition to VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors that are already supported).
- VXLAN gateway support.
- Integration with OpenStack's Quantum network application interface.
- REST APIs for Nexus 1000v programming via simple web commands.
Without a doubt, there's a lot of momentum behind SDN. Without a doubt, SDN could potentially change how networking is done. But significant questions must be asked (and answered) about how fundamental SDN's contributions will be in the near term and which vendor approaches make the most sense for most enterprise IT organizations. For these reasons, we will return to this topic fairly often over the coming months.