OpenFlow and SDNs are hyped as the networking industry's next revolution in that they have the potential to disrupt the proprietary entanglements of today's physical infrastructures through software programmability. At the same time, SDNs are viewed as a less vendor-dependent alternative to physical and virtual network offerings from Cisco and VMware, even though those two titans offer programmable network and virtualization offerings themselves.
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Indeed, VMware just spent $1.26 billion to acquire network virtualization startup Nicira, reportedly out from under Cisco. Cisco, meanwhile, is funding to the tune of $100 million to $750 million a spin-in called Insieme Networks, which is believed to be developing programmable switches and a controller.
Big Switch may be the next big payoff in SDNs. Armed with $39 million in venture funding, Big Switch produced the Big Switch Open SDN product suite, which is designed to enable customers to adopt new network applications more easily than they can with traditional, non-programmable networks. The suite supports "open" standards and APIs, including OpenFlow, and is intended to be hardware platform-independent, Big Switch says.
HP is also a big proponent of OpenFlow and released a controller, 25 OpenFlow-enabled switches and applications a month ago. All OpenFlow advocates hope to disrupt the status quo.
"This represents a dramatically different environment that's not controlled by the incumbent," says Joe Skorupa, an analyst at Gartner. "Cisco is not out front (in SDNs); they are the disruptee. The competition has demonstrated that what they have is viable. It will be hard for Cisco to say, 'It doesn't work; it's a science project; buy ours because the standard isn't ready.' This is a much, much different environment to be in."