The concepts of open networking and software-defined networking (SDN) have been around for a long time, and early adopters, such as hyperscale public cloud providers, have been building and operating networks based on SDN-based open networking principles for years. Mainstream adoption started more slowly, but now it’s accelerating.
Why now? What has changed?
I will get to that question in a moment. But first, let’s review two motivations for open networking and SDN that have NOT changed. In the spirit of a countdown, I’ll start with reason #5 to get started with open networking and SDN.
#5. Save CapEx with open “white box” economics
From the beginning, open networking using so-called “white box” – or bare metal – switching platforms has promised lower hardware costs than traditional integrated switches. Today’s open platforms continue to win handily on a price-performance basis, typically “50-60% less than a comparative traditional switch,” while avoiding vendor lock-in.
This is still an important factor driving interest in open networking, but it’s only #5 on the list because most customers rank other reasons even higher.
#4. Streamline operations with SDN flexibility and user control
SDN was originally intended to let users control networks in ways integrated switching vendors couldn’t (or wouldn’t) support, such as adding new protocols or modifying routing behavior. Today, that inherent SDN flexibility and control is being applied to streamlining and automating network operations. (More on that below.)
Despite those two very good reasons, open networking and SDN didn’t catch on as quickly as some predicted. Network operating system (NOS) software and SDN controllers took time to mature and achieve acceptable feature parity, scalability, and reliability. More importantly, many companies did not have the expertise needed to turn bleeding-edge technology into dependable infrastructure, and they worried that no single supplier could provide end-to-end support. Most viewed the risks as too high to justify the potential benefits.
So, back to the question: what has changed?
A lot. Customer motivations are stronger, the barriers to getting started are lower and the benefits to be gained are greater than ever before.
#3. Get ahead of cloud transformation
We are all on the journey to a cloud-driven future dominated by cloud-native applications designed as collections of microservices, delivered with DevOps speed and deployed and scaled dynamically across a multi-cloud infrastructure. Applications such as IoT and gaming are spreading to expanding edge computing nodes tied to the distributed cloud.
In this cloud-driven world, networks must change. Static, manual configuration cannot scale or respond to dynamic applications. Operational agility and efficiency are now the biggest challenges, and greater network programmability and automation are critical, as illustrated in the IDC data below. Many data center network operators are recognizing the value of SDN-based open networking in addressing these needs.
#2. Get started more easily than ever
SDN-based open networking has matured and the open networking ecosystem is robust. It’s no longer the “bleeding edge.” More importantly, leading solution providers have knocked down several barriers to adoption, including these:
- Simpler migration: One of the biggest barriers to SDN adoption has been the all-or-nothing nature of some solutions, requiring an entire network to be migrated at once. But this is no longer necessary. More intelligent architectures, such as the Pluribus Adaptive Cloud Fabric™, allow incremental insertion into existing networks with full interoperability, allowing for easier migration.
- No SDN controller trade-offs: Many controller-based SDN architectures force users into an uncomfortable trade-off between high controller costs and inadequate scalability and availability. These barriers, too, have been removed using a controllerless SDN approach, as illustrated by the Adaptive Cloud Fabric.
- Open standard technologies and tools: SDN-based open networks have adopted widely used open-source and open standard technologies and best practices, from Linux-based NOSs to REST APIs and automation playbooks for Ansible. That makes it easy to get started, easy to integrate into your preferred operations environment and easy to take advantage of emerging tools for analytics, automation, machine learning and more.
- Robust services and support: When you choose to go open, you don’t have to go it alone. For example, you can get Pluribus Netvisor® ONE and Adaptive Cloud Fabric integrated with open networking hardware and supported as a complete solution from integrated systems vendors such as Dell EMC, through Edgecore partners such as EPS Global and its network of VARs or directly from Pluribus.
#1. Get more out your networks
The number one reason to get started is that today’s open networking and SDN can deliver more than the traditional alternatives:
- More performance and scalability
- More flexibility for more use cases
- More choice and user control
- More operational efficiency, resulting in a lower total cost of ownership
With a large open-source community and a robust ecosystem of suppliers driving rapid innovation and feature velocity, open networking solutions can deliver more business value than traditional approaches.
In my next blog, I’ll describe the key considerations you need to think about in order to get more out of your network with open networking and SDN. Stay tuned!
Ready to get started now?
Want to learn more about open networking and SDN?
- Download the ebook, “Understanding White Box Networking and Open Network Operating Systems.” Download now.
- Watch an on-demand webinar, “Automating multi-site data center networks with SDN open networking.” Watch now.
IDC Perspective, “Assessing Options for Datacenter SDN,” Brad Casemore, December 2017 (IDC #US43279017)
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About the Author
Jay Gill is Senior Director of Marketing at Pluribus Networks, responsible for product marketing and open networking thought leadership. Prior to Pluribus, he guided product marketing for optical networking at Infinera, and held a variety of positions at Cisco focused on growing the company’s service provider business. Earlier in his career, Jay worked in engineering and product development at several service providers including both incumbents and startups. Jay holds a BSEE and MSEE from Stanford and an MBA from UCLA Anderson.