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Interview with Matt Palmer of SDNCentral before next week's DemoFriday

by mschiff on ‎05-07-2013 10:10 AM - last edited on ‎10-28-2013 09:29 PM by bcm1 (1,772 Views)



On May 17 Brocade will participate in SDNCentral’s DemoFriday™.  In this one-hour presentation viewers have the opportunity to see a live demo of how Brocade is taking an innovative approach to OpenFlow by implementing OpenFlow in Hybrid Port Mode on its high-performance routing platforms. This unique capability provides a pragmatic path to SDN by enabling network operators to integrate OpenFlow into existing networks, giving them the programmatic control offered by SDN for specific flows while the remaining traffic is routed as before. To register for this virtual event, please click here.


In anticipation of DemoFriday, we sat down with Matt Palmer of SDNCentral and asked him about the SDN and OpenFlow market, technologies, and ecosystems. Matt is the partner and co-curator of SDNCentral with over 20 years of experience in software-defined networking (SDN), cloud computing, SaaS, & computer networking.


Brocade: Today, OpenFlow is widely used in production environments by mainly the Research and Education community and some large cloud or Web 2.0 companies.  What do you think needs to happen for OpenFlow to become more main stream?


Matt Palmer: Today, SDN (including OpenFlow) is an emerging technology which means the early adopters are organizations that are either a) looking to gain competitive advantage; or b) develop new capabilities – meaning that SDN generically – and Openflow specifically – are right where they should be on the customer adoption curve.  For these early customers – each deployment is a custom project with custom software development.  What the market needs in order to move to more tailored projects is for these early use cases to find applicability at more organizations.  We are seeing this today, for example, we are seeing commonality emerge across customers for use cases such as network visibility and network service chaining and how OpenFlow may solve these problems for specific classes of customers.  As these use case become more common – we’ll see packaged solution emerge where mainstream customers can buy them as solution instead of a custom build solution.



Brocade: In your SDN Market Forecast research you purposely did not size the market through Ethernet-port-based modeling by using OpenFlow as a proxy for SDN.  This makes sense because there are a lot of other SDN technologies outside of OpenFlow.  However, do you have any estimates on the market size for OpenFlow specifically?


Matt: We sized the market based on business impact, which we measured by looking at shifting customer-buying preferences.  The benefit of looking at the market this was is that we can see how SDN as an emerging technology trend is impacting customer-buying decisions today and what it means in the future.  Based on our end customer interactions, we see SDN having a significant impact on today’s purchase decisions.  Specifically, we see a growing number of customers demanding that network infrastructure have committed support for SDN capabilities like programmatic APIs and hooks into orchestration systems like OpenStack. Like most protocols, we don’t see a reliable means to measure market size for OpenFlow – as in our experience customers are focused on capabilities that solve their problem – and not specific protocols.  For example for you don’t hear people sizing the market for OSPF vs BGP– instead they measure the router market.



Brocade: Brocade is implementing OpenFlow in Hybrid Mode on its high-end router family, in both Hybrid Switch and Hybrid Port modes.   In working with different network operators considering OpenFlow what do you hear as the general perception of Hybrid mode implementations in the market today?  Is this the pragmatic approach?


Matt: What’s cool about Brocade’s Hybrid Mode is that you selectively choose which traffic to run in traditional switching and routing mode and which to apply OpenFlow primitives so that you can run OpenFlow over an existing production network.  We see this this as especially important for the R&E community (like Internet 2) and we also see this capability being potentially relevant to WAN operators such as traditional wired service providers as well as mobile network operators.


An interesting, not well know fact, is through our sister company Wiretap – our software architects prototyped in 2012 a service chaining and tap aggregation application for one of our clients on a number of switching platforms, including the MLX.  Back to your previous question – hybrid mode was one of those key featured needed before they could move forward – so as OpenFlow matures on platforms such as the MLX we expect to see customers looking to use it more for mainstream applications such as service chaining and tap aggregation which have broad appeal.



Brocade: What is your overall take on OpenDaylight?  What do you think needs to happen for it to remain true to its mission to be open source? How do you see it fitting with the Open Networking Foundation, and ultimately its effect on OpenFlow?


Matt: OpenDaylight has the potential create a viable open-source SDN software ecosystem – which the industry was missing until OpenDaylight.  That’s a net positive – the real measure will be to see if OpenDaylight can deliver on that promise which until there’s a) code ready for customer consumption; and b) vendor(s) who can support that code all of this is still theory.  There’s significant promise, that’s all it is until the OpenDaylight team delivers the first iteration.   We see the organizations with the biggest impact by OpenDaylight are the early SDN software start-up who’ve just had their entire business models turned upside down with a large industry consortium; it will be interesting to see how they evolve.



Brocade:OpenFlow is one of the leading and most widely known SDN technologies, but where do you see OpenFlow fitting into the SDN framework in the future?  5 years out? 10 years out?


Matt:Let’s be pragmatic – the SDN market and OpenFlow as a technology are still in their infancy and customers are still aligning on use cases.  What we see for the next 12 – 36 months is OpenFlow continuing to evolve for specific use cases such as WAN traffic engineering, TAP aggregation, and service chaining with potential to also be adapted for things like optical transport. Though for at least the next 12 – 18 months most of those will still be custom deployments.  More broadly what we see are the mega trends of cloud computing and virtualization, mobility with tablets and smartphones, and social computing is taking us from millions to billions of servers, mobile devices, and interconnections between those mobile devices and servers – creating a 3X- 5X order of magnitude change in the number of devices and connections on the network that’s forcing network operators to have to change how they build and operate their networks and drive SDN.



Brocade: Besides OpenFlow in hybrid implementations, what are some of the other ways you see SDN making its way into existing production networks within this year?


Matt: One obvious place is OpenStack and integration via the Quantum plug-ins.  We see a lot of interest around integrating Quantum with the physical network.  There is unlikely to be significant production deployment – though we are seeing enough interest that we are writing a report on the various vendor add-ons to the Quantum plug-in and deployment many of them in our lab for testing.



Brocade: As SDN becomes more mature, can you summarize your one piece of advice for customers when considering an SDN technology? And for vendors developing SDN solutions?


Matt: SDN Consumers: Validate, validate, validate – everyone is making claims and before you select a vendor – you need to understand what is reality and what is not as that relates to your timeframes.  Go find a trusted advisor who’s ‘in-the-know’ and help you get started.  That said, 2013 is the year of the pilot and POC – so identify a high value area where SDN may solve a business problem or create new opportunity and start learning. We are seeing 10X increase in number of prospective customers coming to SDNCentral to explore SDN – which means you competitors are likely already off and learning what SDN could do for them. If you don’t know who can help – ask us at SDNCentral and we can refer you to and SDN expert in your part of the world.  Or email me at matt at sdncentral dot com.


SDN Producers:  At the risk of sounding like you are SDN-washing – articulate the programmability capabilities you have, get in the game and fight to get into early field trials.  Everyone is making this up as they go along – so while you can’t get too ahead of reality – you also need to paint to customers a future vision the articulates how you can help them achieve their objectives with your capabilities today and tomorrow.



Brocade: What inspired SDNCentral to offer DemoFriday’s?


Matt: We saw that accelerate mainstream adoptions – the market needed a place for enterprise, datacenter, service provider, and network architects and operators to see SDN technologies in action so they can start to learn how to apply SDN principles to their situation.  We are excited about the Brocade DemoFriday™ because we are showing capabilities for Service Providers with the MLX and for the DataCenter with VCS and OpenStack.