SDN Reality Check! A Story of Six Blind Men and The Elephant?

SDN Reality Check! A Story of Six Blind Men and The Elephant

With an investment of nearly $2 Billion by the bigwigs* in just the second half of 2012 alone,  it is clear that Software-Defined Networks or Software-Defined Networking  (SDN) has taken our industry by storm. Of course, as Matthew Palmer articulated here, it’s been in the making for a while, the confluence of a number of tectonic shifts that have occurred slowly over the past three or so years.

Given this intense limelight, one might be tempted to think that there exists a unified vision of what defines SDN, what it means to the communications industry, and the transformations it will produce. Quite the contrary! Indeed, as we delved into it, we discovered that the situation is closer perhaps to the proverbial blind men and the elephant, with different segments of the industry having very disparate views on what constitutes SDN, how it should even be defined, and how it may (or may not) transform networking!

(*The acquisition of Nicira by VMWare ($1.2B), Vyatta by Brocade (undisclosed), Contrail Systems by Juniper ($176M), Xsigo Systems by Oracle (undisclosed; note that Xsigo has seen over $100M in venture investment alone!), LineRate Systems by F5 Networks, and Cariden Technologies by Cisco ($141M) to name just a few!)

Let me first share with you a bit the background of how this came about, and where we’re going with our “SDN Reality Check!” …

You see the famed debate at the MPLS & Ethernet World Congress on March 20th in Paris this year, which I’ll again have the privilege & honor of chairing, is squarely focused on SDN. As has become my practice, I always invite the panelists for preparatory discussions, which help with level-setting and in exposing the most interesting and contentious issues for debate.

Over the past couple of years of chairing a number of events internationally, I’ve realized (and have consciously done so) that the worldwide community must be involved in these discussions – for today, we an in an age of conversations and collaboration, where the collective intelligence is way more than the sum of the parts! An excellent way to do so, we felt, is to:

(a) Open up our Roundtables to a diverse set of industry experts, not just the panelists (once you learn who the set of experts are that have contributed this time, I’m sure you’ll be as excited as I am!)

(b) Share the wisdom of these experts with the worldwide telecom community – that is, you! – and visa-versa!

This is precisely what we’ll be doing via this series of blog posts, and the dedicated webpage we’ve prepared for the Roundtables and for interacting with you.

This has several benefits; the chief among them is giving the community valuable, distilled insights from the Roundtables that cover a vast range of topics, many of which often cannot make it to the final Panel. The other is to allow us to share the Roundtables with the worldwide telecom community (through numerous channels – mailing lists, announcements, & social media).

Plus, this helps to update the community, raise awareness of key issues and awareness of the Panel at the conference, and involve the larger community in the discourse.

In a sense, we’re sharing with you the complete thought process (even though it’s not baked) as it’s evolving, giving you a peek into how the industry leaders think, which is something I haven’t so far found done anywhere else. This is also an opportunity for the experts themselves to learn from peer-discussions in a collaborative setting, which they may not get to do otherwise, and from the worldwide community!

We will be sharing the recordings & transcripts of the Roundtables and summaries of key discussions on our blogs and other forums, and providing a way for people to:

(a) Contribute questions/thoughts (which provide great inputs for the Roundtables and the actual Panel) (b) Participate (as experts) in subsequent Roundtables

 (c) Listen in if they’re interested in hearing the experts.

An important benefit to us all is that we can reach a substantial international audience (from Chile to Greenland, and Russia to New Zealand :-) ), even those will not be traveling to the conference but are very interested in what is going on in the community, what thought-leaders are saying, and where the industry is going.

So do join us for this exciting journey, and register on this page to gain free access to the materials and to submit your questions!

And, jump here to read the next blog post in our “SDN Reality Check” series!