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SDN on the Horizon, get ready

In the realm of virtualization, the majority of us have been implementing VMware. VMware has consumed around 90% of my attention over the past few years. This is why we are intrigued to read Duncan and Frank's books on in-depth HA and DRS technical algorithms. In 2013, a lot of attention has shifted away from a primary VMware focus and more Hyper-V and KVM discussions are happening. Hyper-V for cost reductions and feature parity, but KVM for native OpenStack integration. OpenStack has garnered much attention in 2012 & 2013 and will most certainly evolve more in 2014. The one thing we can see here is that the hypervisor market isn't big. At this point, we have a choice of 3 (i know there are more) "production-ready" hypervisors and we must choose how to manage them. Choosing a strategy is a very big decision for many. Have you considered how your hypervisor strategy will take part in your networking strategy over the next few years? As you can guess, the days of caring about in-depth HA & DRS inner-workings, vSphere architecture diagrams, and more has fallen to about <30% of my attention span.


The days of the command-line IOS junkie are doomed, but the world of software-defined networking is in infancy. Many of the people I follow on twitter have a narrowed view of this landscape. Particularly, VMware's acquisition of Nicera (NSX) is what made everyone start caring about SDN in the first place. Not going to lie, I was a green-horn myself and still am. I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but NSX isn't the only player in this game. In fact, there are lots! We primarily hear about the big ones coming from the tech giants such as Cisco, HP, and Juniper, but it's also worth noting that there are plenty of others out there with competing (and sometimes even better) technology. SDN is the new wild west frontier and only a few will come out victorious with a large grasp on the landscape.


If I were a betting man (and I am, considering I am avid horse racing fan), VMware's NSX is going to get a pretty good stronghold on its existing customer base. It's VMware for Pete's sake. If it has the brand and the label, then a majority of customers are going to buy into it for their needs because having that single vendor relationship makes sense. But if you are one of the brave, take a look at many of the other SDN products that are starting to make traction in the market.


One of the best resources that I've used for knowledge in the past few months comes from (@sdn_news on twitter). It's a great un-biased resource for all things happening with SDN. If you head over to their SDN Company directory, you can see right away that this is no laughing matter. There are easily over 100+ different SDN companies already out in the wild with plenty more in stealth mode. The choice of "which of the three hypervisors do i choose?" seems trivial compared to SDN.


Odds are you won't be able to test drive all of these different vendors. In fact, one of the things you will see is that some SDN vendors actually provide the switching hardware. It's not as easy as slip streaming a kernel into an ISO, or installing an extension on Open vSwitch. The realm of SDN is wildly different than that of the hypervisor market. Many vendors have different methods to implementing their technology. Finding out which one will work for you is dependent on the use case. Don't know your use case? Watch these videos below which is probably the best non-vendor-biased overview I've seen so far.


One of the projects I've been following is Open Daylight. This is going to be an open-sourced SDN project that will more than likely take off just as KVM and OpenStack has in the past year. The first download won't be available until Q4Y14, but as SDN slowly progresses into the mainstream over the next 2-5 years this will be the beginning of commoditization for the SDN market. Keep an eye out here.


Personally, haven't had a chance to research all the SDN vendors in the market place. I'm not going to go on a tangent and say which ones I've personally had an opportunity to work with, but a great resource to get started is the SDN Central's Demo Friday. Every Friday, a new vendor comes and talks about their product or new integrations. It's a fantastic opportunity to learn about what some of these companies are doing differently.


Want to watch something that will get you really going? Watch the 4-Part (so far) series Future of the Network Documentary. Part 3 goes over many SDN technologies from different vendors. High production quality as well makes it very attention grabbing.

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