SDN Faces a Human Hurdle
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading
LAS VEGAS -- Interop -- People are the main impediment to the introduction of SDN, which requires new skills for network managers and a change in corporate culture, according to speakers on a panel here.
In a world of software-defined networking, network managers need to become software developers, Steve Shah, senior director of product management for Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS), said during the panel session Wednesday. "You need the network to be programmed, not provisioned."
But Dominic Wilde, VP global product line management for Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), disagreed. "This is the fallacy we need to move away from," he said. Businesses should use turnkey solutions to implement SDN -- which, of course, HP and its partners offer.
Another important people-skill for implementing SDN is learning to talk to C-level executives, Wilde said.
"The C-level view of the world is, 'What do I get? I get connectivity? What's the real value that I'm getting from the network and why isn't it getting cheaper?' So you have to change the context of that conversation and be able to say, 'Hey, if I invest in these new technologies that enable my network to be dynamic and responsive versus static and complex, I now have the ability to create new lines of revenue,'" Wilde said.
Another problem: Companies are overwhelmed by difficulties in how to apply SDN principles to their own networks, and require consulting help in making the changes, Wilde said. (By extraordinary coincidence, HP offers just those services, part of several new products and services introduced this week -- see HP Beefs Up Its SDN Portfolio and HP: Here's How We Can Cut WiFi Costs.)
Other SDN stumbling blocks are technical, including too many APIs and protocols, panelists said. (See Goin' South: Cisco Offers 'OpFlex' as Alternative to OpenFlow .)
Despite obstacles, SDN is nearing mainstream, the speakers noted.
"If a grandma can program your DVR, then technology has made it to the masses. That's the state of SDN -- almost, but not quite," said Arpit Joshipura, VP product management and strategy at Dell Networking. Real businesses are deploying SDN at last, leading to cost savings and other business benefits.
Products are here for all layers of the network, Shah said. But automation is still immature
SDN has moved beyond pieces and products, such as controllers and protocols, to full solutions, Wilde said. It's also moved beyond the data center. "The industry got obsessed with SDN being just about virtualization in the data center." Bigger benefits can potentially come from new security models, QoS, and deployment models.
Automating the network and abstracting complexity are major potential benefits, Wilde said. Those are the things that make SDN different from previous technology such as VLANs. Using SDN, businesses can make changes to the network without reconfiguring the underlying topology of the network.
SDN and its role in bridging technology and business will be a major theme of Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. For more on the event, the topics, and the stellar service provider speaker lineup, see Telecommunication Luminaries to Discuss the Hottest Industry Trends at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event in June.