Private/Public/Hybrid cloud is seemingly where 99% of the focus is when it pertains to OpenFlow and Software Defined Networking (SDN) in any article/blog/etc. Personally, I think the industry (at this point it’s just consultants, vendors, and a FEW SDN users) need to think outside the box. As much evangelizing as is going on right now, it’s still the same few that are probably reading into it over and over…that’ my perception anyway. Network Operators still aren’t familiar with these concepts from a high level and it is the average IT organization that can possibly really benefit from SDN. Dimitri said it best – mid-market is forgotten about to a large extent. 100% agree with him and this is where I spend much of my time consulting, so I see it all the time!
I ask…who cannot justify spending BIG money if there is cost savings and value add in other solutions? What types of multi-tenant environments are there outside the data center? While sales cycles aren't ideal like in the Enterprise…cough cough…State, Local, and Education cannot be overlooked. For example, take a city, county, or state. Many have VRFs for various departments like Police Dept, Health Dept, etc. Many require isolated networks. How are these networks deployed today? More importantly, how efficiently are they operated and can they be improved?
Customers in a common vertical sometimes work closely together and share ideas…like in Education, i.e. K-12. I think there can be a niche in any vertical for SDN that you as a consultant/VAR/vendor know really well. They key is knowing verticals and understanding your customers. It’s not about just knowing technology…Data Center is the horizontal place in the network everyone has and because hyper-scale DCs have issues, do Enterprises? Not really. 4096 VLANs is A LOT.
Locally in the DC, VLANs will suffice even with added complexity of configuring trunks. It's not THAT BAD for the majority of customers out there.
A simple and off the shelf SDN product/application can be an OTV-like solution. It’s simple and would only require a few OF-enabled devices, right? Could this be a quick win for SDN vendors? Get it to work across DCs and fix traffic trombones and then that's a different SDN story to tell. L2 DCI just got productized. That's not private cloud at all, but a nice competitive offering to OTV (remember, I pretty much love Cisco too, but I am speaking openly here ;O)). There would be immediate demand for something like that too. Just OF-enable a few devices and perform some magic. I may have over simplified it a bit, but hopefully my point is coming across that there may be niche spots in the network for SDN rather than “going after the data center.” Baby steps. A VM-based "OTV-like" appliance makes sense. Play for Vyatta? Maybe.
What about creating a virtual switch for guests? BYOD is huge right now. Conference room ports, public facing ports, etc. are a nightmare to manage. What if they were aggregated and managed via a single CLI? Think back to the Big Switch demo from a few weeks ago. Couple that with a real guest application and that could equal a full blown Enterprise NAC solution.
That’s just one more horizontal application, but the same could hold true for any type of application. Maybe its video conferencing units and operators have to telnet into 25 switches to configure them. This could actually be a separate physical network than the traditional network facing end users, but it could simplify network mgmt for the video conferencing vendors of the world. This would mean not selling to IT, but to whoever provides isolated/dedicated infrastructure (not saying that’s the right model either in this converged world), like video surveillance, BMS systems, etc.
Heck, take building/business centers, stadiums, multi dwelling units, hotels, etc. as examples. How are they all managed? Are they on the same physical switches? Could virtualizing them from the standpoint of management make sense? It could, but time will tell.
Network Management is the killer app for SDN. Real Network Virtualization is just how we will get there.
OF/SDN solutions could take off in directions where NO ONE is talking about…but first customers need to be UNDERSTOOD and properly educated. Then the opportunities are endless.
Shameless plug…one way to make this all happen is to ensure any new vendor has aligned themselves with a channel partner that is well connected with great customer/vendor/partner relationships, i.e. companies like BlueWater and Presidio. For those of you not aware, Presidio recently acquired my employer, BlueWater.