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Plexxi Pulse – Back-and-Forth Blogs on Network Automation

Earlier this month our friend Greg Ferro wrote an article highlighting his experience with scripting for networking automation and the resulting issues with scaling. It’s definitely worth a read. In response, our own Marten Terpstra (resident king of #TerpstraThursdays on Twitter) penned his own thoughts on the topic, outlining a few key points he believes Greg missed and leading to an interesting back and forth between the two. Take a look at both of these articles on automation and scripting and let us know your own thoughts.

We’re doing something a little different for this week’s PlexxiTube video of the week.  Earlier this year at Software Defined Networking 2014 our own Nils Swart caught up with the folks at Whitehall Media for a quick Q&A following one of the sessions. Nils weighs in on everything from the future of networking to open source projects. Enjoy!

Dissecting the software-defined data centre

In an article for Information Age, Ben Rossi wrote that technology is poised to change core data center economics, but only if done right. I think that one of the challenges in bridging to a new paradigm is that trying to make old and new work together side-by-side is difficult. This is certainly true for both storage and networking.

The easiest way to make the transition palatable is to talk more about specific solutions and less about holistic architectures. At least in the beginning, this creates more energy around smaller, purpose-built infrastructure aimed at very specific use cases. These will tend to be smaller in scope, cheaper in price, and easier for teams to say yes to.

The big-picture kind of approach is good as a general compass (selecting the wrong small steps will get you to the wrong place), but I don’t think that’s how the transition will happen. I would expect the move towards a software defined data center (SDDC) to be gradual.

I wrote about this very phenomenon last week on the networking side here.

Will the Facebook switch and SDN OS change networking? Maybe

In a new opinion piece for SearchSDN, Kyle Forster tackles one of the biggest questions of the summer: Will the Facebook switch and SDN OS change networking? According to Kyle, whether companies follow a specific instance of networking or just adopt new architectures moving forward is inconsequential. What is important is that there will be change.

I’m curious as to how everyone will react to the shift towards bare metal switching and software defined networks. What will be the catalyzing event that gets IT professionals and CIOs to make those new purchases? CapEx by itself is not enough to get people to change their tools, process and people. It will be interesting to see if these architectural changes will give professionals more capability to do the things they want to, or if disruption will continue.
In my opinion, narrow deployments of SDN that do something specific will be the easiest way for people to say yes to upgrade from their legacy networks. Big Switch’s tap application, for instance, is a narrow use case that is very specific and easy to say yes to. It’s not surprising to me that there is traction there and I’m curious to see what other use cases will follow.

When those use cases follow, you will see more people make the leap. When that happens, we might hit some collective tipping point that disrupts things in a permanent way. I wouldn’t count out the big guys in this market as they can certainly adopt a similar strategy and develop products of their own. The challenge there, however, is that these narrow use cases have even narrower business cases, making them difficult to sell internally.

SDN Raises Business Challenges

Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief for Light Reading, weighs in on the business challenges presented by SDN in his latest article. In it, Mitch makes an interesting point about control. According to Mitch, loss of control over the network is likely made worse because not only are we sharing control, but we are moving from a model where control is complete and absolute. When you rely on explicit configuration to make things work, it is a big leap to move to anything that is state driven when using APIs as the intermediary. It changes the entire provisioning model in profound ways, and will absolutely disrupt troubleshooting processes in many cases.

As far as other business challenges for SDN, analytics should be the next wave of things we talk about along with integration with things like capacity planning systems. Whatever challenges we face, one thing is true. The ecosystem of infrastructure is starting to mean more, making the competitive landscape a whole lot more exciting in years to come.

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More Stories By Mat Mathews

Visionary solutions are built by visionary leaders. Plexxi co-founder and Vice President of Product Management Mat Mathews has spent 20 years in the networking industry observing, experimenting and ultimately honing his technology vision. The resulting product — a combination of traditional networking, software-defined networking and photonic switching — represents the best of Mat's career experiences. Prior to Plexxi, Mat held VP of Product Management roles at Arbor Networks and Crossbeam Systems. Mat began his career as a software engineer for Wellfleet Communications, building high speed Frame Relay Switches for the carrier market. Mat holds a Bachelors of Science in Computer Systems Engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.