Next week's Open Networking Summit is starting to look like a coming-of-age party for software-defined networking (SDN).
"You can see SDN is becoming more real, there are more early adopters, and it's being adopted more broadly than you heard before," Guru Parulkar, chair of Open Networking Summit (ONS), said in a phone interview.
The Open Networking Summit 2014 in Santa Clara March 3-5 is a conference highlighting technology and business applications of SDN.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s John Donovan will describe how AT&T is embracing SDN and changing its processes and organization to build future networks and infrastructure using SDN and NFV. Google will describe how it's using SDN, not just in its own datacenters but also in its public-facing cloud. And NTT Communications will also discuss its progress with SDN.
In addition to addresses by vendors and service providers, the conference will feature a research track showing where more universities and research organizations are bringing SDN forward to develop new capabilities. The conference will showcase open source projects as well. Developer tracks will focus on OpenFlow, OpenDaylight, and other open source SDN technologies.
"What gives us enthusiasm is that not only is SDN becoming real, but SDN has a high probability of being absorbed and going mainstream," Parulkar said. This won't happen this year, but it's about two or three years out.
How would mainstream SDN transform networking? "That is a $10-$50 billion question," Parulkar said. The answer is unknown, but we can look to the PC and how that changed the datacenter for guidance. Companies such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Facebook and Amazon Web Services Inc. build their own datacenter components. Other companies don't have that level of sophistication, but they benefit from the building blocks, and turn to solution providers to put both tools together at lower cost than proprietary solutions.
"You can expect the same thing to happen in the networking industry as well," Parulkar said. Service providers now pay 60-70% margin for networking equipment. "Network operators cannot be paying those margins while they themselves are making 20% margins," he said.
I'll be at the conference too, exploring the future of SDN with other attendees; if you see me, come up and say hi. Alas, the California Bureau Mascot is staying home to hold down the fort.
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