The Next, New Era of Networking – By Jason Matlof
I’m excited and honored to announce that I’ve joined the Big Switch Networks team and am looking forward to being part of the most disruptive new product trend that we’ve seen in over 20 years in the data networking industry – the widespread adoption of software-defined networks.
In the past, I’ve been part of two prior new networking product category trends – Ethernet switching in the mid-1990s and then SSL VPNs in the early 2000s. These were impactful and exciting. They changed the way people do business. And I think they pale in comparison to the opportunity ahead of us in software-defined networking at Big Switch Networks. We can fundamentally simplify networks, enabling the sort of opportunity for innovation that comes along once in a decade.
Over the last 25 years, the networking industry has built a vast array of new devices to solve each new challenge as it emerged. In retrospect, we have to ask if that approach was better than solving the fundamental architectural problems of traditional network devices that couldn’t be programmed to solve these new problems as they arose. Traditional networking devices have a fixed set of functionality. Each must be managed individually through a separate management interface with different policy definitions. If you were to start from scratch and design a network, you would not do it this way. It’s an accident of history that we now have cobbled together 5-10 architecturally disparate types of devices that cannot be operated in unison, and that have inconsistent implementation of protocols. That’s where we are today!
At Big Switch, we imagine a network fabric with a universal control plane that can deploy applications with a single policy definition. Imagine that you could automate network-wide configurations in response to dynamic virtual workloads or other dynamic network events. Imagine that you could enable new dynamic network services without expensive routers and manual configuration steps for each device in the network fabric. Imagine that you could debug and monitor the entire network and all connected hosts from a single interface. Imagine that you could do all of this using industry standards and mainstream switches giving you a choice to deploy gear from a variety of leading vendors.
You can achieve this all today utilizing a fundamentally new network architecture called software-defined networking (SDN), which leverages a standard protocol, called OpenFlow. OpenFlow creates a common abstraction between the data plane devices (network switches) and the control plane (SDN controller). Big Switch Networks offers the industry leading SDN controller, and we’re working with a large ecosystem of industry partners to bring SDN applications to market.
It’s the next, new era of networking, and this phase is fundamentally different. Open protocols, open APIs, and an open-source controller are poised to battle the inertia that protects legacy, closed network architectures. Let the games begin!