Anthony Robbins, vice president of federal sales at Brocade Communications Systems, described SDN as an opportunity to address outmoded networking infrastructure. (Brocade in November disclosed plans to acquire on-demand networking vendor Vyatta in a bid to extend its SDN reach.)
"Network infrastructure today is old and full of products designed for client/server-type applications," Robbins explains. "As servers and the data center have become more and more virtualized, the traffic across the network&has changed dramatically. But there hasn't been a fundamental shift in the design of the network."
SDN seeks to address a key problem with legacy network design: The proliferation of individual devices and control planes. "SDN makes all of these devices programmable-centrally and universally programmable-through a software layer, said Jason Matlof, vice president of marketing at Big Switch Networks, a startup open-source SDN vendor.
Software-Defined Networking Nascent, Processes Evolving
While vendors articulate a similar SDN endgame, they disagree on how to get there.
For example, some technology providers support OpenFlow, a protocol that enables servers to send instructions to switches to direct network traffic. Other vendors use proprietary application programming interfaces (APIs) instead. A further complication is the inevitability of "me too" vendors that will slap the SDN label on their products no matter how tangential.
Against this backdrop, channel partners believe they can carve out a niche guiding customers through a nascent technology. "We can weed through the FUD," says Joe Brown, president and co-founder of Accelera Solutions, which that focuses on virtualization. "We can help them plan [to] take advantage of these technologies as they are brought to the market."