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My 3D Printer Can Print Networks

by dtuchler on ‎01-14-2013 02:14 PM (1,314 Views)

My family got a 3D printer kit over the holidays and I’m really excited about it. It’s still fairly early in the evolution of 3D printers, and this was a kit from a one-year old company funded by crowdsourcing, so it’s not exactly plug and play.  In fact, I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit building it and getting it to work well.

But 3D printers represent a huge and dramatic shift that will reshape many industries and create new ones. With a 3D printer and a file you can create or recreate a solid object. The file can be created, emailed, bought or sold – there will be lots of activity around the creative production of 3D files.  And just as many industries were changed or replaced with arrival of the Internet, 3D printing will make some business obsolete while creating entirely new ones.

I’m happy to have my 3D printer so I can understand the possibilities early in the process. Putting it another way, after hundreds of dollars and dozens of hours, I have been able to re-create a 39-cent plastic part.  But I can see the larger value and it will be something that will irreversibly change some aspects of our daily lives.

OK, so you came here to read about SDN and you are probably guessing that I’m going to come back to an analogy, and you are right. At Vyatta (a Brocade company) we’ve developed a router that can be deployed as a Virtual Machine. You can launch one or a hundred, as needed, without the constraints of having to rack and plug in physical devices. The flexibility of deploying routers as a virtualized service enables networking to be deployed in an entirely new way, making multi-tenancy simple and delivering on-demand networking.

SDN carries the promise of fully flexible, programmable networks. More importantly, the dividing lines between networking, servers, storage and applications are quickly eroding and SDN is enabling this change.  Where IT departments used to have silos and plan and build separately, they are now pulling together cross functional DevOps teams with application designers, network architects, security teams and others to build holistically.  This creates a faster response and a more integrated, performance and scalable solution, one that can quickly adapt to changing business needs.  SDN enables it – by allowing the network to be as flexible as a line of code.

In my decades of networking experience, I’ve seen lots of evolutionary changes, but just a few that fundamentally change how networks are built. I’ve also seen network gear become more and more complicated until a wave of simplification arrives. This was true at the physical level when switched Ethernet arrived, when VLANs were first invented and when TCP/IP replaced the stew of protocols that preceded it (remember SNA, DECnet, AppleTalk, Banyan Vines, etc…).  SDN is one of those transformative changes, allowing a complex network to be viewed in a simplified way.

It’s a game-changer. Just like 3D printing.

Contact me if you want to discuss SDN.  Or 3D printing.

- Dan