I was wrong about SDN


VMworld WallWithout even debating, I again found myself on the losing end of an argument with VMware’s Martin Casado.  In our first conversation over a year ago, he explained to me why network virtualization and specifically NSX, which hadn’t been released at the time wasn’t vaporware.  Yesterday, he blew the lid off another one of my theories around Software Defined Networking (SDN) and the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC).  Casado appeared on Wikibon’s theCube at VMworld and discussed the role of SDN and application development.

Developers don’t care about SDN

My position has traditionally been that one of the key advantages to the SDDC and SDN is the ability of developers to program the network.  One of my favorite use cases is for the temporary establishment of secure connections that have a specific quality of service.  Once the communication is the complete the applications will tear down the circuit. Casado pointed out the developers have always had the capability to program the network and have chosen not to use the capability.

His argument is that developers don’t and shouldn’t care about the underlying infrastructure.  The infrastructure should be controlled by an intelligent software layer that dynamically shapes the underlying infrastructure as the application needs adjust.  He compared it to early systems in which the application developer knew everything about the underlying system from memory ranges to cache.  Now all of these systems are abstracted and hidden from application developers so that they can focus on higher level functionality.

This jives with one of my earlier concepts where I have argued infrastructure as a service (IaaS) makes no sense and that enterprises should focus on building platforms for developers to consume.  At the end of the day, it’s about providing the capability that allows developers to build applications that take full advantage of the underlay without concern of the technical aspects of the underlay.

The last time I lost an argument to Martin he brought me a taco.  I’m wondering if I’ll get a burrito out of the deal since he got a big promotion….

Published by Keith Townsend

Now I'm @CTOAdvisor

2 thoughts on “I was wrong about SDN

  1. I agree. I’ve talked about it before. This is especially true if you look at how people are using Docker.

    Most want to use Docker for microservices which basically is a form of Service Oriented Architectures which is a form of multi-tier architectures gone wild.

    The networking model people are using more and more for microservices with Docker is as simple as possible (which does not always apply to legacy applications).

    For example they use the linking: https://docs.docker.com/userguide/dockerlinks/#docker-container-linking

    Let’s say you create 2 containers, you give the first container a name when you deploy it. When you deploy the second container you say it needs to be linked to the first by name.

    The next step up from that is using something like fig. A configuration file that describes how the containers should be deployed: http://www.fig.sh/yml.html

    You give it to a deployment tool/platform and it takes care of the rest.

    It’s all very high level.

    This is very similar to how Google let’s their employees deploy application/cointainers. They just say: deploy this in this way and the infrastructure takes care of the rest including the auto-scaling.

  2. It goes a step further actually.

    When only deploying standard open source software all you provide to the deployment tooling (or operations people) is the definition file. A few 100 kb at most.

    Because the software is automatically downloaded from a trusted source at deployment time. The image that gets downloaded from the trusted source also got the source to build the image from a trusted source (in case of Docker this could be the Docker hub and Github).

    To me, this looks a lot like some a kind of ‘end game’, if you also consider the following:

    There was a large vendor recently, I forgot the name, which said: 80% of the software we provide is open source. And 80% of our value added services for the customer is in that 20%.

    I’ll try and look up the name of the company later (if I don’t forget ! Let me know if you really care). It wasn’t an ‘open source company’ like RedHat of course.

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