SDN architectures

Blessed Are the SDN Switchmakers

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 [email protected]

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[email protected] 2/4/2014 | 1:52:37 PM
Of course, it's not meant to be taken literally... he's obviously referring to all manufacturers of data networking products...




mendyk 2/4/2014 | 2:26:53 PM
Flush with success If you substitute "bathroom" (or "loo," for you ex-colonialists) for "datacenter" in his presentation, it strangely works up to a point.
sam masud 2/4/2014 | 2:59:49 PM
Beyond the DC Congrats, Mitch. Yes, the SDN action seems to be mostly focused on the data center at this time, but I wondering if the opportunity might actually be bigger in service provider networks, particularly in the metro.
sam masud 2/4/2014 | 3:28:39 PM
Re: Flush with success I'll go with loo or bog :-)
Mitch Wagner 2/4/2014 | 4:39:08 PM
Re: Of course, it's not meant to be taken literally... I always look on the bright side of life. 
Mitch Wagner 2/4/2014 | 4:39:45 PM
Re: Flush with success mendyk - People didn't have to use the bathroom in 2005? I distinctly remember doing so at least once or twice that year. 
Mitch Wagner 2/4/2014 | 4:40:31 PM
Re: Beyond the DC sam masud - You don't think service providers are implementing data centers? 
mendyk 2/4/2014 | 4:52:11 PM
Re: Flush with success And there were data centers back then as well. And even Facebook. So the world hasn't really changed all that much.
[email protected] 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?
sam masud 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.
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