It's that time of year again

It's that time of year again - A chance to look back at what happened in 2012 and prognosticate a bit for 2013.

2012 definitely will be rememebered as the year that defined Software-Defined Networking (SDN) from the ecosystem perspective as well as from the customer perspective.  Several SDN companies launched, including Big Switch Networks. The space even saw M&A with VMWare, Brocade, and others making some early purchases in the software space.  Customer-wise, Google started off the year with a bang when they announced their backbone runs entirely OpenFlow and others like Microsoft continued throughout the year talking about their SDN/OpenFLow deployments. And some folks at Caltech set a record with some help from the Floodlight controller.

Open SDN Floodlight Controller logo 

To keep myself honest, I looked back at my predictions from last year, and unscientifically, I'm happy to report that the general trends of the three predictions came true in 2012.  To review:

1. Physical meets virtual - here, I was strongly educated by our customers where they told us that their problems aren't just about the switches (whether they're software-based or hardware-based).  Certainly, there was a desire to manage both hardware and software switches in a unified and coherent manner, but additionally, nearly all of our customers reported the requirement to integrate their SDN with various HW appliances or software tools in the network.  It's a concrete manifestation of the demand for Open SDN.

2. Public meets private - here, the story was everyone wants to get to a cloud, whether public/private, or most frequently, a hybrid.  2012 saw the surge in open source solutions here with both OpenStack and Citrix's CloudStack for Big Switch's involvement in these projects.  While combined hybrid clouds are not deployed en masse yet, we're at the point where many large enterprise IT/compute centers are actively engaged in projects to formulate/evaluate hybrid cloud solutions.

3. Networking meets software - finally, this was an obvious one, I'll admit.  The validation of customer use cases as well as the activity by major vendors such as IBM, HP, Dell and others such as Extreme, Juniper, and Brocade made it hard for anyone in networking to ignore SDN.  Surprisingly, I predicted the projects here would be around converged physical/physical infrastructure or public/private cloud bursting, but innovation finds a way, especially in an Open SDN ecosystem.  The interest in Google's WAN traffic engineering use case and Microsoft's large-scale monitoring were trends I had not predicted, but that's the whole point, isn't it?  Network application stores haven't arrived just yet, but I think we'll get there...

 The Open SDN Road Ahead

2013 - The Year of the SDN Application

So looking ahead, what about 2013?  Under the assumption that it won't just be the residents of Bugarach alive in 2013, I'm predicting 2013 as the year of the 'SDN Application.'  Customers are looking to roll out specific SDN-based solutions in 2013, whether in the datacenter, campus, cloud, or WAN.  The solutions can correspond to something as grand as "network virtualization" or "datacenter interconnect", or it could be something smaller in scope but just as critical (integration of a load balancers or next-generation firewalls into virtualized networks, or even just a simple VLAN translator or MPLS tag rewriter). Two area where I see increasing interest are network visibility and access control policy. (Is anyone brave enough to take another shot at NAC?)

My basis for prediction is the size of and activity in the open SDN ecosystem that we're already seeing:

1. in VC-funded land: more and more startups are actively using SDN to solve customer problems

2. in the open source community: We've seen over 12K downloads of Floodlight this year

3. in the open SDN ecosystem: 25 partners participated in the Big Switch launch last month

As an example, consider what we're doing with Palo Alto Networks: we're automatically mapping their best-in-class security capabilities/devices to specific virtual network segments in a virtualized datacenter, so wherever VMs move around in the datacenter and whomever they're talking to, their conversations can be secured by Palo Alto Networks. Firewalling meets SDN - a great SDN application.

With all these avenues for innovation, I'm probably low-balling to say at least 12 new SDN applications released in 2013, but it's a challenge to all of us in the open SDN ecosystem: let's deliver these applications and take the next step in transforming our customers' networks.  We'll take stock end of 2013 to see how we did.

– Omar Baldonado