Sandwiched between Cisco and Juniper in Wednesday morning's Interop keynotes will be a panel with VMware Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Broadcom Corp.
It's amusing because Cisco and Juniper, even though they've been accommodating toward software-defined networking (SDN), represent the old guard. VMware, Microsoft and Broadcom, combined, represent the new look of the network.
The central question that's on many people's minds is whether (or to what extent) Cisco and Juniper's equipment franchises will be damaged by the commodity boxes due to SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV). Cisco and Juniper might not want to talk about it, but the panel certainly will.
Regardless of where you think SDN is heading, hardware is already heading down a new path. This got pointed out to me last week by Martin Casado, a founder of Nicira and now a chief architect at VMware. It's happening in the large data centers, where the middle of the network has become very simple: handfuls of Layer 3 connectivity, and not much else. Other features are becoming compute-based functions at the edge, running on general-purpose processors. This pattern emerged on its own, Casado says.
What's emerging from that is a Wintel-like model, one where the strengths lie in the chips, provided by Broadcom and a few other players (including Intel Corp., if it has its way), and the software, represented by Microsoft and VMware.
So here on this panel, you'll have three of the biggest companies that stand to benefit from this trend. Sandwiched around them will be the router companies that do preach SDN but still have hardware franchises to protect.
I don't know exactly what Cisco and Juniper will be talking about. But it's possible both their keynotes will be overshadowed by what the panel between them has to say.
(By the way, Facebook is giving the fourth Wednesday keynote, talking about the Open Compute Project -- another source of drama for the hardware providers.)
— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading