Don't Believe the SDN Under-Hype
Here's a brief list of things that have been called under-hyped in recent days, according to my own ears:
- The economic impact of the federal government shutdown
- The stock prices of several companies, according to the companies themselves
- Software Defined Networks (SDN)
Believe me when I say I hope SDN is the one thing on that list that actually is under-hyped. However, I fear a new wave of unbridled optimism could result from the belief that SDN is under-hyped, a potentially dangerous thing for a technology so early in its evolution.
When Ciena Corp. (Nasdaq: CIEN) CTO Steve Alexander said during a speech at Interop and Ethernet & SDN Expo last week that SDN is "under-hyped," I was standing at the back of the packed room. (See ESDN: SDN Is Under-Hyped, Says Ciena.)
At the now-famous moment, a few people laughed, though not uproariously. However, several more people nodded in approval, as if they heard something to their liking, a neologism they could deploy later on the show floor, in panel sessions or in business meetings for months to come.
It's the latter group we need to worry about. Technology innovation is inherently exciting. It tends to breed a lot of wonder, optimism, enthusiasm, and a sense of urgency, all of which are fed into a machine that spits out pure hype on the other end. We're all familiar with the disastrous effects of over-hype, but under-hype is arguably the most dangerous kind of hype.
Literally (which is not really how Alexander meant it), it suggests there is just not enough hype, which in tech circles is like a license for lunacy. SDN under-hype didn’t last long though -- a few minutes after Alexander's speech was over, we soon began hearing the word pop up all over. By then, the machine was in motion.
It's worth noting that despite the fact the entire industry already was talking about SDN before last week, it was being treated with a tremendous amount of logic and thoughtfulness. Though SDN has been viewed from the beginning as highly transformative, many people I talked to before last week readily admitted they didn’t fully understand this technology and all of its implications. There was a refreshing odor of caution around SDN. Now, that refreshing odor might be carried off in the wind.
It's not really Alexander's fault. My read is that he was talking more about SDN's potential bandwidth on-demand applications being under-hyped, not necessarily the general concept of SDN or the size of the dollar sign attached to the market.
Alexander wasn't granting license to forego caution. He was a technologist talking about a technology use case. It was not a signal to call the E-Trade baby and have him invest your life savings in everything and anything associated with SDN, nor was it a suggestion that everything in the network immediately be saturated with SDN.
But, it's too late to stop the hype machine now.
— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading