Cloud Forecast: SDN Will Need Support From Cloud Vendors

If you’ve heard the buzz about virtual networks, you may be eager for the promise of replacing cable-and-plug fests with software programmability. Nicira (Open vSwitch) and VMware (which announced a Nicira acquisition in July) are championing a vision where topologies are manipulated as easily as software deployments. OpenFlow, which underpins many virtual network visions, is even getting significant attention from OpenStack players like Cisco, that have roots in more tangible tech.

Configuring a network used to mean running cat6 and plugging in switches. Not so much, in the SDN future. Photo credit: Gregory Maxwell (Wikimedia Commons).

If enough momentum develops, it has obvious implications for cloud. Cloud vendors have been dealing with virtual networks in their primitive forms for years–VLANs and VPCs are familiar concepts, after all–but traditionally, cloud building and network manipulation were seen as separate disciplines. One happened in front of a console; the other took place in closet at the corner of the data center.

If even half the buzz is accurate, that separation will erode. This is good news, because new flexibility will open room for innovation and happier cloud owners. But it’s also bad news for traditional datacenter operators, and cloud vendors, that don’t position themselves to navigate the unfamiliar complexity.

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  1. Great insights. I’m surprised Cisco wouldn’t be at least somewhat threatened by SDN technology (maybe they are), but maybe that’s where they see the future of networking going…

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