Ronny Lam

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Holiday Is Over: SDN Myths

Holiday is over. This time I chose to mention that after the holiday instead of before, because of known social media risks. Holiday also gave me some time to think about what is really going on in the networking world. This linked blog pretty much sums that up.

SDN in all its myriad visions, and as evangelized by all of its newly christened champions, is fascinating, eminently useful on some levels, and maddeningly silly in others. At the end of the day, however, it’s critical that we don’t get so involved in the excitement, promise, and religious fervor of new technology that we lose sight of what is real, what is useful, and what is “marketecture”.

SDN is for real, but the term is indeed not very useful. I have always compared it to the hype of “the cloud”; we have some real useful cloud solutions these days, but the term cloud has never been very clear. Some propose to define SDN as “programmatic networking” which defines the current movement a bit better but is still not very accurate.

One major term connected to SDN is automation. Part of this automation is the ability to implement standardized changes into the network with the added advantage of mitigating change risks. But this is not solely about SDN. Automation is a process, embedded in a culture, a cultures that is even not necessarily defined as DevOps. SDN possible makes automation easier, but today’s networks can already be automated.

SDN is not disruptive nor is it lowering cost. It certainly has the possibility to lower cost but the reality is that SDN will be an evolution and not a revolution. I am talking to some large scale enterprises and service providers and neither of them are thinking of implementing SDN in the next two years. Some of them are playing in the lab though.

This holiday certainly made me more aware that this SDN thing is a hype, with some nice possibilities. That is not to say that the processes and the culture are not changing. DevOps and automation surely made it to the agenda this year, so even if the technology is not changing, yet, the mindset certainly is.