Cisco Goes on Offense With SDN
SAN FRANCISCO -- More pieces of Cisco Systems Inc.'s software-defined networking (SDN) strategy will emerge within a few weeks, as the company prepares to unveil its program of application programming interfaces (APIs) that will reach into the network. And those APIs will be part of an IT-unifying strategy that will take years to unfold, Cisco executives Rob Lloyd and Pankaj Patel told reporters during a small discussion session held Wednesday via telepresence to sites in Massachusetts, Toronto and California's Bay Area. Naturally, SDN was a major topic -- not only because it's what all the cool kids talk about, but because Cisco is explicitly becoming more of a software and services company. The plan is to double Cisco's software revenues, to $12 billion a year, in the next five years. (See Cisco Charts a New Future in IT.) "I really view SDN as a major opportunity for Cisco. It's a real opportunity to leverage the installed base that we have," said Patel, the executive vice president who's also Cisco's chief development officer. Cisco's SDN story starts with the APIs that customers and developers will use. The idea was introduced in June, along with the name onePK for the platform kit consisting of those APIs. "We are in alpha, and you will see a roadmap of the program interfaces announced within the next month," said Rob Lloyd, a Cisco president in charge of development and sales. Cisco hopes to publicly discuss onePK use cases in the second half of the year, the executives added. Beyond SDN, OnePK is the first step toward a unified IT platform meant to merge and simplify disparate aspects of data centers and enterprise networks. That platform will take five years to flesh out, and Cisco is pledging it will be an open platform developed, eventually, with the help of partners of all stripes (including channel partners). More details about that platform will be discussed at Cisco Live London, the company's customer and partner conference that begins Jan. 28. The onePK APIs will supposedly make it relatively simple for customers to program the network. Behind the scenes, Cisco is trying to make onePK simple for itself as well. The three major operating system camps -- IOS, IOS-XR and NX-OS -- have been pooled into one group at Cisco. Platform and protocols development will be done for all three operating systems at once, rather than in three separate efforts. "So, BGP [the Border Gateway Protocol that handles routing] for all the OSs will be one type," Patel said.