|By Michael Bushong||
|January 7, 2014 10:00 AM EST||
Why is it that the definition of SDN continues to get debated?
I think the definition of SDN remains a bit squishy. And while I am not entirely certain that it matters (people shouldn’t be buying SDN; they should be building networks), it is an interesting phenomenon, and understanding it better could help with the education process.
When most people talk about what SDN is, they tend to fall into two camps: principles and protocols. You will frequently hear SDN described as the separation of control and forwarding planes. You probably hear people talking about SDN needing to be “open” (a horribly imprecise term as I have argued before). These are the people who fall on the principles side. They point less to specific instantiations of technologies and more to the guidelines that define SDN.
The other camp will point to specific protocols and technologies. They rally around the OpenFlow banner for sure, but they might include other technologies like BGP-TE, PCE, ALTO, and I2RS. They see SDN as an architecture with specific building blocks, and the presence of those building blocks determines the SDN-ness of a solution.
I actually don’t think that either of these positions is correct.
I was debating last week whether GMPLS was SDN. It certainly focuses on the separation of control and forwarding plane. It is an open standard. It is absolutely implemented in software. It seems to hit most of the framework criteria for inclusion in the SDN camp. The conclusion of whether GMPLS is SDN or not is less interesting than the discussion that surrounded it.
Does software define software-defined? Claiming something is software-defined because it is implemented in software is probably among the lamest definitional requirements around. The reality is that the vast majority of traditional networking features are all implemented in software. In fact, the major vendors spend north of 80% of their R&D on software-related efforts. By this definition, everything is software-defined.
The real distinction people seem to be trying to make when they talk about software implementations is whether the functionality is resident on a networking device, or whether it sits somewhere on top of the network (as with a controller). But we should be clear about this. Whether some application runs on or off the box is a packaging detail, not some core attribute. Networking devices all have some forwarding ASIC and a general processor. Whether you write something to run natively within the sheet metal or on some server somewhere is irrelevant. Put differently, if your vendor of choice decided to ship their boxes with the central processing card physically separated (it sits a half micron on top, with separate sheet metal, power, and cooling), would you suddenly brand the solution software-defined?
[Special callout to Mike Dvorkin (@dvorkinista) who frequently makes this argument on social channels.]
Is the separation of control and forwarding the meaningful determinant? Network device behavior is all state-driven. Whether that state is determined by persistent configuration or learned through some protocol is secondary. More simply, how important is it how state gets onto the device? More simply, if you set the state via an on-box CLI or via a controller, does that make the solution any more or less SDN?
When most people talk about control and forwarding, they are really having a discussion about management planes. Controller-based solutions certainly separate the management plane. But so do policy servers, OSS/BSS solutions, and even well-written Perl scripts that pull information from a content versioning system as part of device management.
My point here is not to say that separation is not important, but rather that it is likely not enough by itself to determine the SDN-ness of a particular solution.
Does Open make something SDN? No one will say that merely being open (for whatever definition of open you mean) is enough to make something SDN. The real question is whether something can be SDN and not be open. The answer here gets pretty religious, but that is largely dependent on how people have defined SDN. Can you build a software-implemented, controller-based solution that uses proprietary protocols? Absolutely. If that solution is deployed for 8 years and then the IETF ratifies a standard for the base protocol, has your deployed solution gone from non-SDN to SDN despite the lack of solution changes?
So where did all of this conversation land?
It’s not that I think there are not important principles to be considered before labeling something SDN. I just think that it is less about technology and more about context. It is absolutely conceivable to me that a particular technology can exist in both SDN and non-SDN architectures. How a protocol is used determines whether it is SDN or not. The examples are virtually endless, but I would start with things like BGP, XMPP, NETCONF, YANG, and yes, even GMPLS. Similarly, I think there are controller-based solutions that are non-SDN, just as there might be non-controller-based solutions that could be SDN.
This means that the conversation needs to move away from the technological building blocks and more to the contexts that matter. I’ll offer up three here:
- Delegation – OSS/BSS systems have already addressed the management problems inherent in networks built from different devices delivered by different vendors. Cannot the solution simply be to implement master translators that push configuration down to however many devices? It seems to me that SDN is about removing the complexity of managing individual elements. That can only happen through delegation. Central controllers are great, but only if they can pass requirements to individual elements rather than having to manage them all in detail. The analogy I like here is one of the modern corporation. Imagine how effective your company would be if your CEO told every individual what to do. Delegation matters.
- Abstraction - And delegation depends on abstraction. If the goal of SDN is to make workflows more manageable and networks more better (more easily managed, more responsive to applications, more intelligent, more whatever), then we need to abstract out some of the complexity. We need to work less in device-specific directives (read: configuration knobs), and more in overarching intent. The only way that different part of the IT infrastructure can ever collaborate is through a common language, and that will require abstraction. Expecting compute, storage, or applications to speak in terms of VLANs and ACLs is no more practical than turning network admins into storage or compute junkies.
- Globality – Centralizing control is not about where software runs; it is about what that software can do. The whole premise of controller-based solutions is that having a global view of the available resources allows for more intelligent decisions to be made. If your network behaves exactly the same way with or without OpenFlow (meaning all traffic effectively uses the same paths), then does it even matter if you call it SDN or not? We need to be in the business of doing things better, not just different. And that requires globality.
These might not be the only (or even right) contexts to think about, but they at least start to frame the discussion differently. I think it is entirely possible to build open, controller-based systems that fail to deliver against any of the promises of SDN, just as it is possible to use existing technologies in new ways. Ultimately, it is the context – not the capability – that determines whether the promises of SDN are achievable.
[Today's fun fact: A car that shifts manually gets 2 miles more per gallon of gas than a car with automatic shift. Of course all that extra work requires more sustenance, so it's about a wash environmentally.]
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...
Dec. 21, 2014 02:00 PM EST Reads: 3,084
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 21, 2014 01:00 PM EST Reads: 2,621
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
Dec. 21, 2014 11:30 AM EST Reads: 3,153
SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
Dec. 21, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 2,734
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
Dec. 21, 2014 08:30 AM EST Reads: 2,956
ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...
Dec. 21, 2014 06:15 AM EST Reads: 3,282
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
Dec. 20, 2014 11:00 PM EST Reads: 2,114
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 20, 2014 08:00 AM EST Reads: 2,264
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
Dec. 18, 2014 09:45 PM EST Reads: 2,048
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 18, 2014 09:00 AM EST Reads: 2,369
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons. Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as...
Dec. 18, 2014 06:00 AM EST Reads: 1,404
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
Dec. 17, 2014 11:15 PM EST Reads: 2,322
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 17, 2014 11:00 PM EST Reads: 2,308
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 17, 2014 08:00 PM EST Reads: 2,304
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
Dec. 17, 2014 06:30 PM EST Reads: 2,283
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
Dec. 17, 2014 11:45 AM EST Reads: 2,394
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Dec. 16, 2014 11:45 PM EST Reads: 2,286
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
Dec. 15, 2014 11:45 PM EST Reads: 2,659
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
Dec. 15, 2014 10:30 AM EST Reads: 8,241
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...
Dec. 15, 2014 10:00 AM EST Reads: 3,362