SDN (software defined networking) is generating a lot of buzz these days, but the technology will ultimately make itself useful in the enterprise largely because it will save enterprises time in deploying new applications, predicted Martin Casado, chief architect of networking at VMware.
Casado invented the OpenFlow protocol, one of the cornerstone technologies for SDN, and founded SDN company Nicira, which VMware purchased last year for US$1.26 billion. He spoke Wednesday at the Interop 2013 conference in Las Vegas.
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"We're really seeing a strong adoption in virtual networking. We're moving away from SDN as a science fiction and we're hitting an inflection point in the adoption of virtual networking across all sectors -- finance, large enterprise, telcos, service providers," Casado said, in an interview.
While pundits have predicted a bright future for SDN -- IDC expects the SDN market to swell to $3.7 billion by 2016 -- less has been said about why enterprises will feel it is imperative to deploy the technology. Only in the past year has the case for SDN become apparent, Casado argued.
In order to succeed, a new technology must solve a problem, or relieve a bottleneck of some sort, Casado said. He compared the potential rise of SDN to the core technology that originally made VMware a powerhouse.
VMware built its success on x86 server virtualization, and the killer application for that technology turned out to be server consolidation -- organizations found that they could save significant money by virtualizing their servers and aggregating them on fewer machines.
Casado remembers meeting VMware co-founder Mendel Rosenblum shortly after VMware's launch -- they both taught at Stanford University. Casado recalls that Rosenblum was convinced VMware had a great technology, but wasn't yet sure how it would be used. It would take several years for VMware to understand that server virtualization would best be used for server consolidation.
In a similar manner, VMware has come to believe that SDN's killer application will be "reducing the time to provision IT," Casado said.
"While there are operational savings and capital savings, and they can be significant, the reason that people buy into SDN is that they want to reduce the amount of time it takes to deploy an application," Casado said. "Speed is the key."
Most enterprise IT project managers have, at one time or another, felt the frustration of having to wait days, weeks, or even months for their IT departments to provision the resources necessary to run a new application. Cloud computing offers the potential to reduce the time to wait for computational and storage resources, so the networking remains the sole bottleneck to fast deployment, Casado said.