Hostway, meanwhile, may also adopt SDN, building upon its Microsoft-based cloud. The cloud hosting company uses Microsoft Hyper-V as its virtualization layer and System Center Virtual Machine Manager as its management control layer, notes Mike Robski, vice president of research and development at Hostway. The company is now looking tap Windows Server 2012's Hyper-V Network Virtualization feature as its pathway to SDN. He says the key benefit of SDN is the ability to isolate customer networks.
Robski says Hostway provides firewalls for customers' virtual machines, protecting them from outside intruders. Internally, those virtual machines are set up on the same network; conceivably, one cloud customer could access another's virtual machines.
Windows Server 2012 network virtualization provides the ability to set up completely isolated virtual networks for each customer on the same physical network, Robski says. However, he adds, lack of third-party support keeps Hostway from immediate deployment. "One of the components we are currently missing is the gateway device that sits in front of the virtualized networks," Robski says, adding that a couple vendors are working on gateway products.
Third-party consulting support is less of an issue. Robski says Hostway uses its internal staff and leverages its partnership with Microsoft. That said, Robski points to a role for third-party consultants in helping customers connect their on-premises networks to their Hostway-provided virtualized networks.
In that situation, customers will have to maintain their own expertise or use an outside consultant to configure and set up network virtualization on their end, he says. Hostway doesn't plan to provide that particular service to customers. "We are hoping there will be a lot of consultants providing this kind of expertise," Robski says.
Enterprise, Channel Prospects Emerge for SDN Firms
Consultants and other channel partners look to play a bigger role as more enterprises consider SDN adoption.
LaCour believes consulting ecosystems will begin to develop around particular enterprise SDN solutions. He says the traditional networking vendors now entering the SDN space will follow a model similar to the one they have taken with other technologies: Cultivate large networks of certified engineers to support a given product category. "I can see the same thing happening on the SDN side," LaCour says.
Indeed, vendors that range from long-time players to relative newcomers are building channels for their SDN wares.