Light Reading

SDN & the Commodity Question

Craig Matsumoto
Valley Wonk
Craig Matsumoto
11/14/2012
50%
50%

6:00 PM -- I know a lot of people are waiting for software-defined networking (SDN) to bring down the Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) empire. Waiting for OpenFlow to commoditize network hardware into the ground.

I get asked about that all the time. I just don't see it happening in the short term.

In the long term, I'm less sure.

The seeds are certainly there. OpenFlow allows a controller to dictate commands to switches; ergo, the switches can be dumb and simple, so the argument goes. The possibilities aren't lost on the new SDN companies -- a Big Switch Networks presentation linked to its commercial launch Tuesday repeatedly mentioned "low-cost Ethernet Switches" as its target devices.

The ingredients are out there, too. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), at its recent developer forum, released a DIY kit for a commodity server. It uses Fulcrum Microsystems switch chips, Xeon processors and software from Wind River (well, a Linux kernel anyway).

But commoditization of the hardware is not an easy process for the customers, because right now, you can buy a network and have someone else (usually Cisco) do a lot of the work for you. Assembling your own network out of generic Made-in-Taiwan switches might be fun for Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), but it did take a lot of work.

And the switches still have to perform. I like the basketball analogy posed by Simon Leopold, an analyst with Raymond James Financial Inc. (NYSE: RJF), in an SDN report he issued this week: "Imagine how poorly a team would perform if after each pass, the team paused to consult the coach. Rather, the coach provides the general strategy and guidance yet leaves the execution to the team."

There's also the fact that the hardware won't necessarily be cheap. OpenFlow was designed to exploit a router's ternary content-addressable memories (TCAMs), a specialized and costly type of chip. And OpenFlow 1.2 potentially increases the amount of TCAM space you'll need.

So many signs seem to point away from commoditization. And yet -- I can't bring myself to bet against easy and cheap. At the moment, SDN doesn't have either trait on its side, but a lot of people are going to be working to change that.

For what it's worth, the SDN executives whom LRTV spoke to recently don't think hardware vendors are in imminent danger (caveat: two of them are hardware vendors), and Ankur Singla, CEO of Contrail Systems , even cites Cisco and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) as being well poised to break away into a software-dominated future. He's got a point.



— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

(9)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
commoditytips789
50%
50%
commoditytips789,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/8/2014 | 3:14:07 AM
re: SDN & the Commodity Question
Pretty component of content. I just stumbled upon your website and in accession capital to say that I get actually loved account your weblog posts. Any way I'll be subscribing in your augment and even I success you access persistently rapidly.

Accurate MCX & NCDEX Tips
big_thinker
100%
0%
big_thinker,
User Rank: Lightning
12/5/2012 | 5:17:42 PM
re: SDN & the Commodity Question


lets say if sdn does commodotize the switch hw, it would be a business model issue for sdn sw companies themselves also.  why?  


broadcom already provides openflow support on its switch chips via their sdk and it will enhance over time and would be available for any controller to use.  when a stable and complete openflow support comes directly from switch chip vendors, odms may be able to sell switches based on these chips directly to mid-to-large data center vendors.  


under this scenario, how much would a large data center be willing to pay for the controller sw?  remember that the largest data center guys may want to write their own controller sw anyways. 


even if an openflow controller company offers a special sw agent on top of these switch chips, how much would they be able to charge for it?  100$, 200$.  how many switches would one need to sell?


we like to point to pc as an example where motherboard and operating system and apps got decoupled.  it worked there because pc volumes were immense and no of kinds of apps that were needed on top of os were bounded only by imagination.  


i argue, it is not the case here and business model is actually a BIG problem for sdn sw companies. 


 


 


 

big_thinker
50%
50%
big_thinker,
User Rank: Lightning
12/5/2012 | 5:17:41 PM
re: SDN & the Commodity Question


while vcs are pouring desparate money into openflow and sdn sw startups hoping nicira like returns, they and the startups are working really really (really) hard to make chinese odms like these the real winners...


http://www.pica8.com/


for good reasons they are staying somewhat under the radar and letting the whole ecosystem work for them...  smart.


look at the PICOS, in the link below.  everthing you need in a typical tor is already supported. ovs is there too, so you can do advanced policy pushes in the tors using a controller.


http://pica8.org/blogs/


 

Pete Baldwin
50%
50%
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:40 PM
re: SDN & the Commodity Question


Regarding pica8: Could be. But then again, a lot of bigger customers are accustomed to being handheld by a vendor like Cisco. That could be a hard habit to break.

Pete Baldwin
50%
50%
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:40 PM
re: SDN & the Commodity Question


> under this scenario, how much would a large data center be willing to pay for the controller sw?


I've heard that suggested -- that it might be the controller that gets commoditized.  The context being that the higher-level software (orchestration and the like) was where the big value would be.

patentchoi
50%
50%
patentchoi,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:39 PM
re: SDN & the Commodity Question


Agree that some large DC operators (e.g Google) have their own controller. However those are not big Cisco customers even today. The challenge will be when Cisco's big accounts are threatened. The broadcom's may sell directly to the DC operators but they are weak on the operations software. The controllers would still have a monetization challenge but it would be interesting to see how that plays out.

big_thinker
50%
50%
big_thinker,
User Rank: Lightning
12/5/2012 | 5:17:39 PM
re: SDN & the Commodity Question


craig, agreed.... in that case controller vendors would be looking at smaller market not glued to likes of ciscos of the world anyways...

joanengebretson
50%
50%
joanengebretson,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:37 PM
re: SDN & the Commodity Question


Craig makes a good point about people being used to hand-holding from Cisco. Wonder if Cisco could ultimately follow in the footsteps of IBM as a company that started life as a manufacturer but over time evolves more toward being a consulting/ services provider.

gtchavan
50%
50%
gtchavan,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:17:33 PM
re: SDN & the Commodity Question


You got to love the SDN hardware provider motto:  We are dirt cheap and we sell the same hardware as everyone else using the same merchant chips.  

More Blogs from Valley Wonk
Comcast joins Google in asking for a flexible-rate optical standard, rather than 400G or terabit, but that's easier said than done
Cisco, Juniper and other more traditional Interop speakers might get overshadowed by the forces of virtualization
The Open Networking Summit has climbed the hype curve, but the conference should cling to its roots as a techie discussion forum for software-defined networking
The coalition's chairman says all these companies plan to further the SDN cause and don't have a 'nefarious' angle
Big vendors are reportedly banding together to unify SDN's approach but is it more about steering the conversation?
Flash Poll
From The Founder
The New IP is actually bigger even than business. Like another hugely important tech that Light Reading is digging into right now, the New IP has the potential to change the world by fundamentally advancing what it is possible for people to achieve with communications.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
New Ways of Working

3|5|15   |   4:24   |   (0) comments


At the ICT Leaders Roundtable, hosted jointly by Light Reading and Huawei at the Hotel Renaissance in Barcelona just prior to Mobile World Congress, Hong Kong Telecom's Michael Yue explains how the transformation in its business has changed its customer relationships.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Bridging the Digital Gap

3|5|15   |   4:03   |   (0) comments


At the ICT Leaders Roundtable, hosted jointly by Light Reading and Huawei at the Hotel Renaissance in Barcelona just prior to Mobile World Congress, Boingo's Dr. Derek Peterson explains how ICT can help telcos bring the physical and virtual worlds closer together.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Making the Internet of Things Affordable

3|5|15   |   2:42   |   (0) comments


At the ICT Leaders Roundtable, hosted jointly by Light Reading and Huawei at the Hotel Renaissance in Barcelona just prior to Mobile World Congress, Telefonica's Dr. Mike Short explains how the Internet of Things demands a new low-cost approach to connectivity from telcos.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Evolution, Not Revolution

3|5|15   |   2:00   |   (0) comments


At the ICT Leaders Roundtable, hosted jointly by Light Reading and Huawei at the Hotel Renaissance in Barcelona just prior to Mobile World Congress, Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan explains why telcos can't be too hasty in their efforts to transform themselves.
LRTV Custom TV
Management & Orchestration Enablement Strategies Required for NFV Commercial Success

3|5|15   |   6:22   |   (0) comments


NFV commercial success rests on successful service orchestration strategies which can span heterogeneous physical, virtual, legacy and next-gen networks. Network data and security integrity are additional key aspects. Nakina provides a suite of orchestratable network integrity applications built on an open, scalable MANO enablement platform.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Power of Five Convergences in OceanStor OS

3|4|15   |   6:24   |   (0) comments


OceanStor OS is Huawei's brand-new storage operating system. While inheriting the consistent high stability, reliability and performance from the company's previous storage products, OceanStor OS abounds in new converged storage features. Specifically, the new storage operating system achieves "five convergences" to lift storage convergence to a higher level.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
4K Brings Extreme Video Experience

3|4|15   |   8:10   |   (0) comments


4K video is a hot topic in the video industry. It will certainly bring an extreme video experience to end users. At the same time, however, it will also pose a big challenge to operators. Check out this Huawei 4K experts' discussion about how operators can achieve success in 4K video service.
LRTV Interviews
DT's Virtualization Vision for Europe

3|4|15   |   10:23   |   (0) comments


Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders talks virtualization, cloudification and standards with Deutsche Telekom's Axel Clauberg at Mobile World Congress.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE's Wireline at MWC 2015

3|4|15   |   6:35   |   (0) comments


Light Reading speaks with Jane Chen, ZTE's Senior VP of Wireline Business, about innovations in her product line at Mobile World Congress.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE at MWC 2015

3|4|15   |   4:24   |   (0) comments


Dr. Dick Chen of ZTE USA gives Light Reading an overview of what's new at ZTE's pavilion at Mobile World Congress 2015.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson CEO Talks Telco Data Center Tech

3|4|15   |   05:45   |   (0) comments


At Mobile World Congress, Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg discusses telco data center technology, business models, small cells and more.
Between the CEOs
EXCLUSIVE: Cisco's Chambers on Reinvention

3|3|15   |   8:24   |   (1) comment


Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders talks transformation and virtualization – including Light Reading's independent testing of the vendor's virtualization solutions – with Cisco CEO John Chambers at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Upcoming Live Events
March 17, 2015, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Net neutrality, broadband services and the current outlook on data consumption, as presented by the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Hot Topics
Internet Pioneers Decry Title II Rules
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/2/2015
Wheeler: We'll Enforce Title II 'Case-By-Case'
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 3/3/2015
New CenturyLink CTO in Major Overhaul
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 3/4/2015
Verizon Takes Radio Dot to Detroit, VoLTE Overseas
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 2/27/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Check out Light Reading's interview with Jay Samit, the newly appointed CEO of publicly traded SeaChange International Inc. With a resume that includes Sony, EMI, and Universal, Samit brings a reputation as an entrepreneur and a disruptor to his new role at the video solutions company. Hear what he had to say about the opportunities in video, as well as the outlook for cable, telco, OTT and mobile service providers.