I haven’t gotten excited about anything network related in a long time. Most of the changes in the last few years have been evolutionary. The idea of a programmable network is revolutionary. I think Cisco and Juniper have protection for market share on the high end but I see this as getting “good enough” sooner than latter and challenging the big guys on the low end.
I’m more excited about this from a cloud provider’s prospective. This will give providers the ability to create the same multitenant administration constructs for customer networks on commodity hardware similar to server virtualization.
Originally posted on Gigaom:
VMware(s vmw) teamed up with Stanford and Berkeley on Tuesday to create an industry consortium around software defined networks, called the Open Networking Research Center. The company, famous for hypervisors that virtualize servers isn’t about to watch while companies attempt to build the same disruption in networking. The consortium counts CableLabs, Cisco(s csco), Ericsson, Google(s goog), Hewlett-Packard(s hpq), Huawei, Intel(s intc), Juniper(s jnpr), NEC, NTT Docomo, Texas Instruments(s txn) and VMware as its founding sponsors.
Much as server virtualization abstracts the hardware for the software that runs on it, allowing people to put different virtual machines on top of one server, virtualizing the network abstracts the cables and ports from the demands of the applications. But that’s not enough. To really achieve the flexibility that webscale and cloud companies demand, the network must be both virtualized and programmable.
The current enabler for this shift in networking is OpenFlow, a protocol developed out of Stanford and championed by a group formed last March called the Open Networking Forum. Many of the companies that have joined the VMware at the ONRC are also members of the ONF, including VMware. OpenFlow is a means to separate the intelligence associated with moving packets around the network with the gear that does the moving. At that point the intelligence can run on commodity servers, a factor that was seen as bad news for Cisco, Juniper and other networking companies which may see their margins drop and profits erode.