There was a time when I could reliably look toward Cisco to lead the network industry in providing capabilities that dragged along in the slow dredge that can be standards boards. Cisco would fill the gap where standards bodies were slow to react. For instance, Cisco long ago expanded the capability of the IGRP routing protocol view its EIGRP proprietary standard. This value-adds along with the manufacturing quality and support capabilities made Cisco a compelling option for DC Managers. When I was a young engineer (many moons ago) I relied on these hardware based features to enable my career.
However, times have changed. Cisco was slow out the gate with a SDN strategy. They recently announced greater details around their ACI eco system that includes both hardware and software strategies that will not be in fully available until Q2 of 2014. This has mainly been in reaction to vendors such as VMware making big bets on SDN in the form of their acquisition of Nicira and the release of NSX a software based network virtualization solution.
Solutions such as NSX help to question the need to continually invest in hardware to achieve a higher level of functionality. With a software first approach, network vendors can in theory shorten the release cycles of virtual network appliances. For the same reason enterprises embrace Cloud, network vendors and customer would embrace SDN – agility. Vendors are not tied to the challenges of hardware design for minor upgrades while customers reap the operational benefits of network virtualization.
However, Cisco is a $42 Billion/year business. They have a powerful relationship with the network buyers within the enterprises and ACI isn’t a bad concept. Even if late to the game Cisco has consistently helped organization upgrade the capability of extremely large network environments while keeping stable operating environments. That by itself is a compelling reason to give Cisco some time to communicate and demonstrate their value.
It may not matter that Cisco is late to the game they’ve finally recognized the need for network virtualization. Now, it’s just a matter of them delivering as they have in the past on incremental hardware based