SDN architectures

Why Developers Should Care About SDN

SAN DIEGO — Uplinq 2013 — Mobile developers might not care much about software defined networking (SDN), but they should. Changes to the datacenter will allow them to be much more creative with their applications, according to Marc Andreessen.

Andreessen, who spoke at Qualcomm Inc. (Nasdaq: QCOM)'s Uplinq conference this week, knows a thing or two about innovation, having co-authored the first web browser Mosiac in 1993, followed by a string of other successful companies. He is now a leading technology industry venture capitalist, whose investments include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Skype, and AirBnB.

So why does he think datacenter innovation can lead to app creativity? It's a chain reaction, as he described it: By separating the control logic from the physical infrastructure in the datacenter, costs come down; when costs come down on the backend, the cost of building apps falls as well. Ergo, developers can be more creative and build more sophisticated apps than otherwise possible. (See The Promise of SDN and NFV, SDN Help Save Data Center Power.)

"Even if you don’t care, it's exciting because the cost of the backend for a modern app is falling very fast," Andreessen said. "If you were going to build Google or Facebook or Twitter or anything like that, the cost of building it is falling quickly compared to what they had to field. When costs fall like that, the app developers can get a lot more creative."

Fireside Chattin'
CNBC's Jon Fortt interviews VC extraordinaire Marc Andreessen about how he filters through the 'completely lunatic ideas' to find the ones that could lead to big breakthroughs.
CNBC's Jon Fortt interviews VC extraordinaire Marc Andreessen about how he filters through the "completely lunatic ideas" to find the ones that could lead to big breakthroughs.

Like Qualcomm, Andreessen is bullish about the opportunities that heterogeneous computing -- multiple cores working together -- brings. Everything is changing right now, he said, but especially in the datacenter. He predicts that the same processors that go into smartphones will be the processors that power servers in the future.

And, those might just be Qualcomm ARM chips as well. Speaking on a press panel Wednesday, Murthy Renduchintala, EVP of Qualcomm Technologies Inc. and co-president of Qualcomm Mobile, said that it wouldn't rule out making ARM chips for servers, which traditionally use x86 processors. Doing so could bring down the cost and power requirements of the chips. Again, developers are helped in a circuitous way.

"Servers are clearly an area of interest to us," he told reporters. "The technology is complementary with what we are doing in the smartphone space, which makes it an interesting option for us to consider."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Sarah Thomas 9/6/2013 | 5:07:47 PM
Re: Agree with sentiment but maybe not the details Great perspective, Mike. I think that's partly what Marc was referring to in that developers can be tightly integrated. Apps that integrate with the phone's functions are some of the most powerful. Integrating all the way to the network level could really open up possibilities.
@mbushong 9/6/2013 | 1:47:03 PM
Agree with sentiment but maybe not the details I think that developers should pay attention to SDN but less because of cost savings and more because of the potential to create different types of applications. Part of what SDN does is make it possible for the network and applications to collaborate. This should yield new types of applications.

If you look at mobile apps today, it is basically a lottery. For every one app that goes viral, there are thousands that make no money whatsoever. In fact, being first in a an app class gives tremendous first mover advantage as the number of downloads is the greatest predictor of the future number of downloads (users sort on popularity). 

If you are the first to do something cool using what SDN gives you, you are orders of magnitude more likely to build a hit. People who tinker first will get initial versions out first, and iteration will be important to nail this down. 

I don't know that budget savings in infrastructure gets passed to developers. Those are separated by pretty big organizational lines, budget boundaries, and sometimes even across companies.

-Mike Bushong (@mbushong)

Sarah Thomas 9/6/2013 | 9:05:56 AM
Re: VC's POV I think that's fair, and he talked about the trend towards lower prices, in general, too through data centers being run hot and put in cold places, more software, and greater efficiencies. He was trying to relate it to the developer community, which does stand to benefit. Maybe not the small apps developers, but the big services and huge social media platforms. Those are the types a VC like Marc is interested in.
[email protected] 9/6/2013 | 4:22:05 AM
Re: VC's POV Aren't the back-end costs falling dramatically anyway due to the economies of scale of having more datacenter capacity and more efficient current virtualization technologies anyway?

Also, I would question how much of the savings will be passed on to developers. I'm not saying they won't benefit but I wonder just how much impact the implementation will have on developer costs vs datacenter operator margins.


maybe that's too cynical a view.
Sarah Thomas 9/5/2013 | 5:03:35 PM
VC's POV Good to hear someone whose more focused on the trendy, big-name consumer services talk up the importance of SDN. It may not be the sexiest tech, but it's clearly going to be important!
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