When network operators tout the potential of software-defined networking (SDN), most note that its first application will be in the data center, where the seamless connectivity of the growing number of virtual machines is high on operators' wish lists.
[Note: This SFR should not be confused with French telco SFR, which is one of the operators trialing the Virtualized Services Platform, announced in April by Alcatel-Lucent's SDN spin-in, Nuage Networks. See Alcatel-Lucent Spins Up its SDN.]
Inside the cage, Peerless Network CEO John Barnicle shows Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (left) his company's downtown data center in SFR's facility
SFR opened up a new state-of-the-art Tier 3 data center in Chicago Tuesday, and Light Reading got to take part in the official ribbon cutting.
While touring the facility, Tony Hiller, VP of engineering and operations at Peerless, admitted he was skeptical about the hype surrounding SDN and noted that, while Peerless was testing it, no operator was doing it yet at scale.
"Honestly, [SDN] has about as much potential as Carrier Ethernet exchange," he said. How much is that? Well, no one is making money on Carrier Ethernet exchange yet, he said.
SFR CEO Avner Popuchado was a little more optimistic. He said SFR was not implementing SDN capabilities, but it has a sister company, Raptor, which has SDN technology that SFR can use when it's ready. That will most likely be sometime in the next year to 18 months, he said.
"We do believe in it … No one is really doing it today, but people are thinking about it," he said, adding that on-demand network access and paying for what you use are big drivers of more flexible networks.
SDN may not be the big buzzword in Chicago, but efficiency in the data center -- something that SDN should enhance -- is a key concern for both Peerless and SFR.
And when they're ready to embrace SDN in their live data centers, it should be a relatively painless process. Most large data centers are already set up as simple Layer 3 networks with computing platforms that handle many of the networking functions. Peerless is no different, as it uses VMware Inc. technology throughout, along with Brocade Communications Systems Inc. routers and BTI Systems Inc. software. (See Brocade Spruces Up for Data Centers and What Applications Will Want from SDN.)
The SDN market is nearing the top of the hype cycle right now, ahead of the practicalities of real-world deployment. Whether it succeeds in revolutionizing network operations remains to be seen, but it's clear not every data center owner is betting the (server) farm on it just yet.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading