Friday, November 11, 2011

Panel on Software Defined Networks

TiE Silicon Valley organized a panel on the next wave in networking - Software Defined Networks (SDN) on Thursday, November 10th. This was well attended (with an audience of over 150) and was easily one of the best panels that I have been to (TiE or otherwise).

Networking has not evolved much in the last 20+ years. Since the first packet switched network in the late 1960s, companies have basically been improving the same architecture and basically improving line speeds and port densities. All that changed with the PhD dissertation of Martin Casado at Stanford in 2007. His thesis was based on the Ethane project, that allows one to build a secure enterprise network with a powerful, yet simple management model. This led to OpenFlow and SDN. Suddenly, there is innovation in networking and there is a lot of excitement around the plain old network!

The first speaker was Stanford's Guru Parulkar. He defined the problem - how networks are vertically integrated, complex, closed and proprietary. By separating the data plane and control plane and having a protocol between the OS and the forwarding devices, it is possible to build network control management applications. He waxed eloquent about the talk given by Verizon's Stu Elby at the Open Networking Summit on Service Provider Networks.

Dan Wendlandt of Nicira spoke next. Dan provided his perspective on SDN - how it is possible to describe high level policies that the system "compiles" down to individual devices. So, a VM can migrate all through the data center and have the security policies follow it.

The next speaker was Anshul Sadana, VP Customer Engineering at Arista Networks. Anshul spoke about OpenStack. He also talked about how virtualization sets networking back one step and how Arista's VMTracer bridges the gap between physical and virtual networks, thus simplifying network operations.

Stuart Bailey of Infoblox was the next speaker. He likened the value (in networking) moving from custom hardware to software to the end of the mainframe era. We are, indeed, at a huge inflection point in the evolution of networking. Infoblox solves the problem of managing pervasive networks.

The final speaker was the host of the evening - Allwyn Sequeira of VMWare. He talked about the trends driving the evolution of the DataCenter:
  • New Application architectures - stateless and scaling out
  • Lower Hardware costs
  • Virtualization of all Hardware components (by 2014, an average server will run 320 VMs)
There is a need to enable dynamic, workload aware networks that has
  • Forwarding plane
  • Control plane
  • Management plane - which abstracts the network and presents the abstraction to the upper layer for logical networks
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the session. Each speaker on the panel was an expert and has deep knowledge in their subject matter.