Posts Tagged networking
It is Wikibon’s belief that the trends put forth by hyperscale companies are starting to push into the enterprise to create a software-led datacenter. While SDN fits into this trend, there is an even greater opportunity to truly transform the way that the network is managed and potentially disrupt the current industry structure, which is dominated by Cisco. While customers may complain about high prices, networking has traditionally been bought on risk-avoidance and changing vendors can cause a lot of angst and internal resistance. Cisco has done a great job of keeping up with customer requirements over the last 15 years and despite industry consolidation – both acquisition and challengers in the channel – has managed to maintain a long lead, especially in L2/L3 switching. There are rumors that Cisco’s latest spin-in – Insieme Networks – will make some announcements at Cisco Live next week. Whether that happens or not, with Cumulus Networks coming out of stealth today, let’s take a look at some competing visions for where networking is heading.
Software Defined Networking (SDN) dominates networking industry conversation today. The $1B+ acquisition of Nicira by VMware got everyone’s attention. Big Switch also received good buzz at the launch of its open ecosystem. While it is Wikibon’s advice that enterprise CIOs shouldn’t wait for the market to mature more before trying to jump into an SDN solution, one of the underpinnings of future solutions is available today. OpenFlow (which is only a piece of the SDN story) requires a controller and OpenFlow enabled switches. According to the SDN Central website, the following vendors are currently shipping OpenFlow-enabled switches:
Over a year ago, I posed the question, “Does 10Gb Ethernet change the Competitive landscape?” Cisco has been the dominant player in networking, for over a decade no competitor ever captured even ten percent of the market. While Ethernet is continuing its march into new markets and new applications, the market landscape has definitely changed. Fresh off of VMworld, there is a buzz in the networking world around new opportunities and architectures.
The Big Trends
Optimism was abundant at Interop in Las Vegas this week. Attendance and energy was up from the more economically subdued shows of the last two years. While I only got to spin through the event for a few hours, I did get to talk to a bunch of the companies and bloggers at the show. While cloud (and the fabric networking that enable scalable architectures) may have been the big theme, but the undertone in the networking space was attacking Cisco while they are believed to be vulnerable due to some soft financial results and restructuring.
The networking space is in the midst of significant changes. The starting point is the transition to higher speeds, with most customers finally moving to 10Gb Ethernet (almost a decade after the standard was ratified), and 40Gb and 100Gb solutions starting to become available. But the real drivers that make networking strategic to IT are the trends of virtualization, convergence and cloud. As has been the case for the last decade, the conversation of the marketplace starts with Cisco. Cisco has been talking about “Data Center 3.0” for over three years; today’s Cisco announcement (here’s the PR) is delivering on a number of pieces of the vision. As Cisco pushes into adjacent server market, it finds the networking marketplace more competitive than it has been in many years.
In the storage networking space, convergence has been the hot topic for the last four years. I will be attending SNW in 2 weeks and a quick look at the agenda shows that “converged” or “unified” trail only “cloud” in buzzword bingo. I wrote recently about how FCoE sales are doing well in embedded and rack-based solutions. While the move to Ethernet based storage networks is growing, there are many things that customers and vendors can do to accelerate this transition. The storage industry is notoriously slow to change and this is about more than just a protocol transition (which always take much longer than anticipated). The imperative for companies to adopt converged infrastructure is that CIOs are under tremendous pressures to lower costs, IT must compete with cloud pricing models and staffs are increasingly moving from specialists to generalists. While some customers will wait until FCoE ships as part of a standard configuration (expect more LOM solutions when Intel’s Sandy Bridge servers roll out), here are my recommendations for the industry on accelerating convergence.
I have to admit, when I first heard that Juniper was looking to deliver a “single tier” for networking, I thought it was a case of marketing one-upmanship. Every networking vendor has been pitching its own version of how to flatten a network to gain greater efficiencies and support the different traffic patterns driven by virtualization. I wrote last year that there wasn’t much differentiation between the various high level messages of moving to a two-tier network. Juniper has announced the architecture of it’s Stratus Project – the first hardware component, the QFX3500 starts shipping this quarter and the full QFabric solution is expected to ship by Q3’11. Juniper’s deconstruction of a switch, which allows for greater scale, lower latency and most importantly an order of magnitude in the number of devices to be managed, is truly innovative (not a term I use lightly).
Today, IBM officially announced the formation of its System Networking group (it’s buried in this PR). I’m on the record saying that IBM’s acquisition of BNT is not to attack Cisco. IBM is a master at the practice of co-opetition, and has a stated commitment to maintain partnerships, unlike HP, which has openly declared war on Cisco. The networking industry has undergone a realignment that will challenge Cisco’s dominance in the space.
Commoditization of IT, moving to more standardized components is a force that affects every product line across the industry. Looking at the details of any server or storage device will show the impact that Intel has had. Network switches have specialized chip designs that differ from processors, but face the same competitive pressures of creating new generations of products at a lower cost with more functionality. The move to standard switch components has moved significantly over the last decade and is creating a shift in the economics of the switch market. Specifically, hardware value is flowing from the switch vendors (Cisco) to suppliers of switch silicon (Marvell, Broadcom, QLogic). The implication is that to maintain margins, switch manufacturers will need to look for alternative value streams.
Last week I attended Interop in New York City where I had the opportunity to speak to many companies about converged infrastructure and cloud solutions. Every vendor has a different definition of what convergence is (it is not melting your data center into a toxic blob) and how it fits into a cloud story. Back at the office, Dave Vellante debriefed me on what I saw – see the video clip below: