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Blessed Are the SDN Switchmakers

Mitch Wagner
2/4/2014
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Pope Francis is an unlikely teacher about the importance of software-defined networking (SDN).

And yet, Andrew Feldman, corporate vice president and general manager, Server Business Unit, for Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (NYSE: AMD), uses the following slide to illustrate the transition to SDN.

On the left is the inauguration of Pope Benedict in 2005. On the right, the inauguration of Pope Francis in 2013.

"What you see in the photo in 2005 is everybody's watching," Feldman said in a phone conversation. "In 2013, everyone is holding up an iPad and iPhone recording the event. The way we experience the world has changed, and unbeknownst to us it is inserted in the datacenter in our daily lives." Every video and photo will be uploaded to the cloud, tweeted, posted to Facebook, and emailed to family. All that requires datacenters, Feldman said.

"We are using the datacenter constantly. You go to Google Maps, you go to the datacenter. You use Twitter, you use the datacenter. If I take your datacenter away from you by taking away your radio, you have nothing. You have a device that isn't good for anything but playing Angry Birds.

"So large is this transformation in the datacenter, so all-encompassing, there is nothing similar about datacenters between today and 2005."

Datacenters, he notes, are now located in different places where energy costs are lower than average, such as Prineville, Ore., site of a major Facebook datacenter. Previously, datacenters were located in cities such as San Jose, Calif. And the architecture changed -- they are no longer boxy, generic buildings.

"They are finely tooled systems seeking to cool servers and infrastructure with ambient air," Feldman told us. "They are architected and engineered in a way that's different."

The servers are different: Dell or HP in 2005, Quanta or Foxconn today. Switches, software controllers, and storage are all different as well. Likewise, software such as Hadoop and Cassandra was unavailable in 2005.

And SDN is part of that fundamental transformation. "It's a response that says we used to link together PCs, printers, and a few servers with Ethernet. We now control thousands of servers. We can add some intelligence, some control and manageability to the network that we previously couldn't do and didn't need."

SDN adds centralization to previously decentralized systems. SDN enables decisions based on traffic patterns in the network, rather than pre-set rules. "Some modest amount of centralization and control benefits the system, particularly because we can learn and have software that modifies the rules in the network based on what's actually happening there," says Feldman. "That software can communicate and work across many switches, whereas in the past each switch had its own software and would learn independently."

It's a heck of a leap: from Papal inaugurations to SDN.

What networking metaphors are available for other grand public events, such as the Olympics, Super Bowl, and periodic availability of the McDonald's McRib sandwich? Feel free to make outrageous suggestions on the message board below.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading.

Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to mwagner@lightreading.com.

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Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
2/16/2014 | 2:50:08 AM
Re: The (data)center of the world
Mitch, 

"You think Google Glass is going to take off?"

Yes, I think it's going to surprise many. Good Glass is supposed to hit the market in just some months' time, around mid-year, at a tag price of $600, or so, just about what a smartphone costs.

This price is much more attractive and accessible to the initial $1.500. This means anyone who can actually buy a smartphone can opt this year for buying Glass, instead. 

After all this time and feedback Google is better prepared and most likely has improved the product. As for the apps, that's still to see what developers are going to come up when Glass is actually in the market. 

Developers need to gain more experience developing apps for Glass. Adapting from a smartphone, or a tablet doesn't work. 

According to a BI Intelligence report Glass is going to sell millions by 2016. I do believe so, too. :)

-Susan
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
2/13/2014 | 6:57:24 PM
Re: The (data)center of the world
You think Google Glass is going to take off? I see a lot of resistance, more than the usual pushback against emerging technology. And I still haven't seen a compelling application that doesn't work better on a phone or tablet. 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
2/11/2014 | 8:17:36 AM
Re: The (data)center of the world
Mitch, 

"I sometimes think about how odd the photo on the right -- and millions more like it, of people with their faces turned to their mobile devices, or recording things on mobile -- will look to people of future generations. "Oh, yes, people did that in the 2010s," our descendants will say. "Wasn't that odd?""

Yes. :D And they will probably be doing that while all looking at the same odd old pictures on their Google Glass. By the way, in just a few years' time the next picture of this kind will be of people wearing Google Glass. 

-Susan
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
2/10/2014 | 6:05:27 PM
Re: The (data)center of the world
I sometimes think about how odd the photo on the right -- and millions more like it, of people with their faces turned to their mobile devices, or recording things on mobile -- will look to people of future generations. "Oh, yes, people did that in the 2010s," our descendants will say. "Wasn't that odd?" 
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
2/6/2014 | 10:03:43 AM
Re: The (data)center of the world
Gabriel, 

Yes, that, too. I wouldn't be surprised if some teachers start using it in creative writing classes for a comparing and contrasting exercise. Or something else. 

If you think for a minute about how different life is since all the mobile devices became mainstream you can also see how much human communications changed. And here I am not talking about the obvious. :/

-Susan
Gabriel Brown
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Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/6/2014 | 9:35:46 AM
Re: The (data)center of the world
The amazing thing about this picture is how viral it has gone. And that you can use it to dicuss just about any aspect of teleco networking.
Susan Fourtané
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Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
2/6/2014 | 5:59:05 AM
The (data)center of the world
Mitch, 

Those two pictures are a clear illustration of how much the world has changed in less than 10 years. Indeed, we see the world differently.

We can't even say we see the world with different eyes as for the majority their eyes are always behind a mobile device most of the time.

How many times have you seen someone recording, or taking a picture of something extraordinary to later on watch it on the screen? Meanwhile, they lost the moment of the real experience of being present.

Oh, well. As for data centers, companies are building them everywhere. Google and Facebook have data centers in Finland and Sweden. They have said that one of the reasons is the quality of the water.

-Susan 
mendyk
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mendyk,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/5/2014 | 8:53:56 AM
Re: Flush with success
Telco data centers are just now beginning to change, and the biggest changes are still to come. That aside, I thought we were going for absurd comparisons. The last paragraph of the original post suggested that to me ("outrageous suggestons"). But I've misread things before.
sam masud
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sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/5/2014 | 8:29:24 AM
Re: Beyond the DC
Indeed they are. My point was that the opportunity in the metro space might be bigger for SDN than in the data center.
Ray@LR
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Ray@LR,
User Rank: Blogger
2/5/2014 | 6:16:08 AM
Re: Flush with success
Isn't the AMD guy's point, though, that datacenters have indeed changed quite a lot?

Are you saying he is mistaken?
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