We have, for the most part, moved past the question of whether or not Software Defined Networking is more than just hype. It is more than just hype. While the definition of just what is and what is not SDN remains unclear, most of the “SDN debate” is about figuring out just how disruptive it really is—who will win and who will lose. But, in reality, the most interesting aspect of SDN is that despite the fact that all of the incumbent vendors, as well as the new start-ups, have a different vision of what a software approach to networking should look like, essentially all of them have incorporated some aspect of it in their product strategies. This ultimately means that many, very bright people are focused on innovation in networking.
I chaired the SDN/OpenFlow Applications panel at Open Server Summit 2013 recently and the value in the discussion came from seeing “tangible” benefits that SDN can offer at the application layer (layer 4-7). The common thread was how applications can use the network orchestration and programmability that SDN promises.
The panel comprised of vendors including: Cisco, Dell, HP, and Netronome, showed how applications can be developed using the concepts of SDN. In other words, pulling the central control out of the hardware, having a global view of the network, and finding some way to use these elements to simplify or automate network configuration in a mix of open and proprietary software.
So, the discussion always seems to lead back to the question of whether we really need SDN to achieve this goal of network automation/orchestration, and, if we do, should it be vendor agnostic? Some of the equipment vendors seem to be saying that SDN can make some pretty interesting things happen, but even though we already do a lot of those things, in fact when the compelling pieces of SDN are incorporated into our existing solution, it is even better.
In the end, I think the competing approaches and increased options, open or proprietary, will ultimately benefit the customers – they are the winners and that is a good thing.