Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Patrick Hubbard, Elizabeth White, Sven Olav Lund, Liz McMillan, Amitabh Sinha

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo, @BigDataExpo

SDN Journal: Blog Feed Post

SDN: Capability or Context?

Does software define software-defined?

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 post SDN: Capability or Context? appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

@CloudExpo Stories
The last two years has seen discussions about cloud computing evolve from the public / private / hybrid split to the reality that most enterprises will be creating a complex, multi-cloud strategy. Companies are wary of committing all of their resources to a single cloud, and instead are choosing to spread the risk – and the benefits – of cloud computing across multiple providers and internal infrastructures, as they follow their business needs. Will this approach be successful? How large is the ...
Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes was originally built by Google, leveraging years of experience with managing container workloads, and is now a Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) project. Kubernetes has been widely adopted by the community, supported on all major public and private cloud providers, and is gaining rapid adoption in enterprises. However, Kubernetes may seem intimidating and complex ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that B2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. B2Cloud specializes in IoT devices for preventive and predictive maintenance in any kind of equipment retrieving data like Energy consumption, working time, temperature, humidity, pressure, etc.
SYS-CON Events announced today that N3N will exhibit at SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. N3N’s solutions increase the effectiveness of operations and control centers, increase the value of IoT investments, and facilitate real-time operational decision making. N3N enables operations teams with a four dimensional digital “big board” that consolidates real-time live video feeds alongside IoT sensor data a...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Mobile Create USA will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Mobile Create USA Inc. is an MVNO-based business model that uses portable communication devices and cellular-based infrastructure in the development, sales, operation and mobile communications systems incorporating GPS capabi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Daiya Industry will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Daiya Industry specializes in orthotic support systems and assistive devices with pneumatic artificial muscles in order to contribute to an extended healthy life expectancy. For more information, please visit https://www.daiyak...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Interface Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Interface Corporation is a company developing, manufacturing and marketing high quality and wide variety of industrial computers and interface modules such as PCIs and PCI express. For more information, visit http://www.i...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Greg Gorman is the Director, IoT Developer Ecosystem, Watson IoT, will provide a short tutorial on Node-RED, a Node.js-based programming tool for wiring together hardware devices, APIs and online services in new and interesting ways. It provides a browser-based editor that makes it easy to wire together flows using a wide range of nodes in the palette that can be deployed to its runtime in a single-click. There is a large library of contributed nodes that help so...
Elon Musk is among the notable industry figures who worries about the power of AI to destroy rather than help society. Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, embraces all that is going on. AI is most powerful when deployed across the vast networks being built for Internets of Things in the manufacturing, transportation and logistics, retail, healthcare, government and other sectors. Is AI transforming IoT for the good or the bad? Do we need to worry about its potential destructive power? Or will we...
21st International Cloud Expo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Me...
SYS-CON Events announced today that mruby Forum will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. mruby is the lightweight implementation of the Ruby language. We introduce mruby and the mruby IoT framework that enhances development productivity. For more information, visit http://forum.mruby.org/.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Suzuki Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Suzuki Inc. is a semiconductor-related business, including sales of consuming parts, parts repair, and maintenance for semiconductor manufacturing machines, etc. It is also a health care business providing experimental research for...
Many organizations adopt DevOps to reduce cycle times and deliver software faster; some take on DevOps to drive higher quality and better end-user experience; others look to DevOps for a clearer line-of-sight to customers to drive better business impacts. In truth, these three foundations go together. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit 21st Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Co-Chair Andi Mann, industry experts will discuss how leading organizations build application success from all...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Nihon Micron will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Nihon Micron Co., Ltd. strives for technological innovation to establish high-density, high-precision processing technology for providing printed circuit board and metal mount RFID tags used for communication devices. For more inf...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SIGMA Corporation will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. uLaser flow inspection device from the Japanese top share to Global Standard! Then, make the best use of data to flip to next page. For more information, visit http://www.sigma-k.co.jp/en/.
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing Cloud strategies, now is the perfect time to attend 21st Cloud Expo October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, CA, and June 12-14, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is on the right path to Digital Transformation.
Cloud applications are seeing a deluge of requests to support the exploding advanced analytics market. “Open analytics” is the emerging strategy to deliver that data through an open data access layer, in the cloud, to be directly consumed by external analytics tools and popular programming languages. An increasing number of data engineers and data scientists use a variety of platforms and advanced analytics languages such as SAS, R, Python and Java, as well as frameworks such as Hadoop and Spark...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MIRAI Inc. will exhibit at the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) Pavilion at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MIRAI Inc. are IT consultants from the public sector whose mission is to solve social issues by technology and innovation and to create a meaningful future for people.
Cloud-based disaster recovery is critical to any production environment and is a high priority for many enterprise organizations today. Nearly 40% of organizations have had to execute their BCDR plan due to a service disruption in the past two years. Zerto on IBM Cloud offer VMware and Microsoft customers simple, automated recovery of on-premise VMware and Microsoft workloads to IBM Cloud data centers.