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Silicon Valley's SDN-Fest Returns

Craig Matsumoto
3/5/2013

Obviously, the rise of software-defined networking (SDN) and anything related was one of Silicon Valley's big stories last year. A side effect that's less well known was the sudden growth of the Open Networking Summit (ONS) to more than 900 people in April. That's not very big in absolute terms, but they were preparing for something closer to 600 (matching the October 2011 attendance) or maybe 700. Staff members at the Santa Clara Marriott were scrounging up chairs to try to fit more people into the rooms. The ONS had become the place to be. The ONS still won't be huge when it returns April 15 -- more than 1,000 attendees, they're predicting -- but it's still the event on the Valley's SDN social scene. Every SDN conversation I've had since Christmas seems to end with a question about whether I'll be there. The conference's calling card has been the gathering of SDN and OpenFlow minds -- names like Nick McKeown, Scott Shenker and Martin Casado (who's now with VMware Inc. via Nicira). The thing to watch is whether that strength can persist. Everybody claims to do SDN now. We've all heard jokes about making a software-defined sandwich for software-defined lunch. Now that everybody wants to be seen at ONS, will that dilute the conference's effectiveness? There's a parallel to OFC/NFOEC, which was (and still is) a Ph.D.-level gathering. During the dot-com boom, it also became a hotspot for paper-thin startups and the bankers who loved them. The tradeshow shrank quickly but the conference itself never lost its cachet. You'll hear complaints about marketing creeping into the technical papers, but OFC/NFOEC is still a haven for serious optical discussions. That's what the ONS needs to be. It's nice that Vint Cerf and Arista Networks Inc. CEO Jayshree Ullal are keynoting, but the real meat will be in the developer and research tracks. It's by nurturing its technological side that the ONS can keep a strong reputation. Having said that, I have to admit I'm looking forward to some of the more journalist-friendly sessions. One has Cisco Systems Inc., Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and Juniper Networks Inc. presenting their SDN plans; hopefully some of the contrasts will make for good Q&A fodder (or, maybe, just a lot of "platform" and "architecture" blather). On the service provider side, Deutsche Telekom AG, Google and NTT Communications Corp. will present at varying times -- another good chance to directly contrast approaches. — Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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