IT organisations have been virtualising compute servers for years, and now it's time for network admins to have their turn at virtualisation.
A panel at Interop in Las Vegas this week that included network executives from Dell, HP and VMware said that software-defined networking (SDN) will usher in big changes in network operations.
As expected, SDN is a hot topic at Interop, with users and analysts looking to gauge the pulse of adoption. During Thursday's keynotes, panellists were slated to discuss the first steps users should consider when deploying SDN. All of the vendor executives agreed, though, that the market is beyond just the first steps of adoption.
"We're well beyond talking about what it is," said Sarwar Raza, VP of product management in the NFV (network function virtualization) segment of HP. "It's important to focus now on business outcomes and the important use cases instead of the bits and bytes."
SDN is being adopted across a variety of sectors, but the pace of adoption varies, says Arpit Joshipura, Dell's VP of enterprise networking. Here's how Joshipura sees the market breaking down so far:
Service providers and hyper-scale enterprises
SDN is not new for these early adopters, who have deployments in place. Their networks are automated and much is controlled by application program interfaces (APIs).
Many are experimenting with SDN and exploring the opportunity that disaggregating the network hardware and operations can bring. They're exploring how a branded bare-metal switch can run multiple network operating systems. They're not, according to Dell, transitioning to commodity hardware as some may have expected.
Mid-market organisations and SMBs
Many of these organisations use converged infrastructure, which comes with baked in compute, network and storage as a single appliance. To the extent those converged platforms embrace SDN technologies, these users will too.
Telecommunications providers are using NFV to control higher-level network functionality through software.
Many users are convinced about the benefits that automating and controlling network resources through software can provide. Now, it's a question of how to operationalise and institute it, which is why Guido Appenzeller, chief technology strategy officer for networking and security at VMware believes the market is in a "Golden Age" for network administrators.