Cisco Broadens Its Software-Defined Networking
SDN is often thought of as a club that's going to splat Cisco to the sidewalk like a bug. But in her keynote, Padmasree Warrior, one of Cisco's two CTOs and the general manager of the enterprise business, tried to turn that image around by portraying Cisco as a leader that's looking two moves ahead in SDN's progression.
"We want everyone to think more broadly and holistically about SDN," she said.
Cisco still hasn't disclosed its full SDN plan, but its platform will be called the Cisco Open Programmable Environment, and it will be about providing programmability and visibility at multiple levels of the network. OpenFlow, the hot SDN technology of the day, does those things at the control and data planes; Cisco wants to expand the concept to the rest of the network, possibly up to the orchestration layer.
(Warrior didn't specify which layers she was talking about, but her slide included an orchestration layer, so we'll use that as our example.)
Of course, Warrior also pledged Cisco's approach would be open (but probably not as open as the Most Open Organization ). [Ed. note: Who could be that open?]
Programmability is a key facet of SDN -- the concept is all about being able to program the network -- but visibility can be important too. The network holds a lot of state information, and policy engines and other network elements expend a lot of effort trying to glean that information. Cisco's role in SDN could involve unlocking that data, as David Ward, another CTO and chief architect of Cisco's service provider division, recently noted. (See Cisco Links SDN & Policy.)
That kind of awareness is one of the key characteristics Cisco plans to drive for the network, helping set policy by using analytics combined with subscriber and session information.
The bigger theme in Warrior's talk was the general transformation of the enterprise network, driven by trends such as cloud computing and mobility.
In addition to SDN, she discussed the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) trend, saying the network has to provide user telemetry -- visibility as to what devices are connecting and how they're being used -- in order to better set policies. This network also needs to be more programmable and, because IT budgets aren't increasing, more manageable than today's.
By the way, Cisco is still laying claim to having the "first instantiation of SDN," through the Nexus 1000v routers that separate the data and control planes. We'll leave the comments open for you fact-checkers out there.
— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading