Today, the industry officially welcomed another start up to the SDN world – Pica8. I’ve been following these guys for a while as they posted on their blog and before their merger with Pronto. At one point over a year ago, I even inquired about purchasing a Pronto Switch, but never pulled the trigger. Check out the original Pronto Systems web site here for more background and history on their solution, products, and testing.
Pica8 + Open vSwitch
In my last blog, I talked about Cisco’s Nexus 1000V, VMware’s VSS/VDS, and the Open vSwitch (OVS) as the three most deployed solutions for L2 virtual networking in the hypervisor. One interesting fact here is that Open vSwitch can actually run as the control stack on a hardware switch as well. Interesting? Definitely – considering the majority of conversations around SDN have focused around data center network virtualization.
Cisco does have a unified operating system, NX-OS, which runs across the Nexus product line including physical switches (Nexus 7K/5K) as well as the Nexus 1000V distributed vswitch. The difference here is all about the control and management planes.
From a data center perspective, it could make sense to keep the edge (access layer) under a unified control/management plane or at least have the flexibility to should the need arise. This would mean, we would need the ability to control/manage physical switches via the Virtual Supervisor Module (VSM) if they were actually being used as access switches in a Nexus deployment. Another way would be to integrate the 1000V into the hardware switches (7K/5K).
At this point in the world of SDN, we just may want to keep the core/distro/spine switches under a different point of control which is why I’m saying to unify the control of the “access layer.” It shouldn’t matter if that access layer is a virtual or a physical switch. Think common CLI. I know I’m using the terms control/management planes loosely here – it is in order to get the point across on managing a virtual + physical access layer solution as ONE and to be able to develop forwarding policies across them as ONE just in case there are designs where physical bare-metal servers need to be maintained.
From a competitive perspective, I really don’t think Cisco needs to worry about companies like Pica8 at this stage in the game, but it’s always interesting seeing the trends of the large providers who are looking at Pica8 and ODM type solutions. Every so often, they just may trickle down into the Enterprise.
Understanding SDN + Solution Providers/Integrators
CRN is doing a pretty good job around SDN and making sure the partner community is aware of announcements like Pica8’s today. In the CRN article published earlier today, they quoted Pica8 VP of Product Marketing as stating, “No VAR is going to pick us up as yet another switch if they don't hear some kind of future-proofing story and they don't have something to sell," Garrison said. "I've never seen the market go so crazy on terminology before a value prop was even defined. SDN is still very amorphous."
In another article and interview that was published today by ACG Research, Pica8 CEO, was quoted as saying, “If [I] was an IT manager in an enterprise right now I would just be reading this stuff going OMG, and I would wait a couple of years until people calm down and sanity takes over the networking industry. Cloud was in the same situation, but now we know there are public clouds and private clouds. I think we need to get there; I think next year will be better or we will lose our interested customer base with too much marketing.”
The net of those two quotes is that SDN as a whole is hard to follow, difficult to understand, and definitely hard to define. It is the truth. No argument there, but it really made me think.
Who can an Enterprise IT end user talk to about Software Defined Networking (SDN) today without being sold on a product? From my personal perspective, the area of SDN is an area that can really differentiate the products, traditional services, and consulting services sold by a solutions provider. How does anyone have time to comb through the list of 20-30 start ups on top of the existing incumbents out there should they really want to evaluate SDN technology? Enter forward thinking solution providers. Now may be a good time to plug my employer, Presidio! In all seriousness, should anyone want to have an open and candid discussion around SDN not aligned to any specific vendor, I am personally always more than happy to have a call or exchange a few emails. If you wish to make it more formal and engage through Presidio, that’ll definitely work as well. Just contact me here to get started.
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