A software-defined network: is it an evolution or a revolution in networking? The hype of SDN has been around for several years, but as yet it doesn’t seem to have managed to get much traction outside of the MSPs and Fortune 500 companies with regard to SDN, and telcos with regard to SD-WAN. When, if ever, will the SDN meltwater reach the fertile plains of the LME?
For this, we really need to look to history.
Previously Published on TVP Stragegy (The Virtualization Practice)
One of the frustrations of SDN has always been the fact that if you ask six different people for a definition of SDN, you’ll get ten different answers, at least. This stems in part from the usual IT buzzword symptoms. When a system is used for competitive advantage, each company wants to define its own brand of “The Thing”—to try to “own” the thing and become the de facto standard for it. There is also a deeper issue with SDN, precisely because it is networking.
When we talk about “the network,” we often think of one thing: one set of interconnected computers. Sometimes we think of the internet: of many interconnected networks. In reality, there are many different networks that even the smallest of companies use every day now. Each of these has different needs, different solutions, and different flavours of SDN. Add into that public and hybrid cloud, and we have many, many networks in use. Some of these we have control over, but many of them we don’t. However, that doesn’t mean that SDN isn’t playing its part.
An odd little title, I think you will agree, but consider this: Wham! had a hit with “Freedom” and Sam Cooke sang “Chain Gang,” and I think you can now see my thought process. This post is going to investigate not the technical capabilities of Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), but rather what its market placement will mean to the software-defined networking (SDN) industry.
Firstly, Cisco’s Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC), the brains behind its SDN product ACI, can only run on CISCO equipment. More importantly, APIC can only run on Nexus 9000 series switches. These are:
Only for the biggest environments.
So, what about those who have invested in Nexus 7000s and below? Well, up until the Cisco Live US conference, you were effectively legacy. However, Cisco recently stated that the APIC will now be able to overlay application workloads to older (read Nexus-only) switches. The first switch that will be able to have these policies is the Nexus 1K; the only issue is that a Nexus 9K series switch is still needed. Not looking so inviting now, is it? What is important here is that it is an overlay.