Friday, Mar 24, 2017
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Executive Viewpoint 2017 Prediction: Pica8

It’s time to look to 2017, and in SDN, there are certainly some exciting times ahead.  Here are five predictions about what will happen in the coming year. As always, these predictions are my own – and hopefully they won’t come back to bite me next year!

1. OpenFlow Will Focus on Blue Ocean Applications

The early definition of SDN architecture was all about separate control and data planes with a centralized, disaggregated controller. But this definition has morphed, and the reality is that today, customers are much more interested in what SDN will do for them, as opposed to what the technology actually means.

That said, the importance of specific SDN protocols will diminish. We have seen many of our customers build different SDN solutions with different protocols in all networking applications.  In each of these cases, customers are using the protocol that makes the most sense.  Sometimes it’s OpenFlow.  Sometimes it’s OVSDB.  Sometimes it’s NetConf.  Sometimes, it’s basic L2 and L3.  And more often than not, it’s a combination of all of these.

We will continue to see the OpenFlow protocol in Blue Ocean SDN solutions, such as Network Visibility, Video, and Backbone Gateways, but it’s not the panacea, nor will it be the primary factor in the purchasing decision.

2. Security Will Dominate the SDN Application Landscape

Some estimates show that SDN has grown to as much as 60% of production data center deployments. But the real question is, where will it go from here?

Not surprisingly, security will dominate the landscape for SDN applications.  If the DDoS flood on Dyn is any indication, security operators will continue to explore new strategies for defending against such attacks. Segmentation, access, security monitoring, traffic control and quarantine – being able to control the network when something goes bad has always been a critical requirement.

More and more companies will look to SDN – predominantly as a technology enabler – to integrate with their existing security tools, applications, and strategy.  And this will be the number one driver for SDN in the coming year.

3. White Box Makes it Into the Enterprise

The predominant white box deployments are in the cloud-scale “big seven.” Adoption in the enterprise has been slow – even more so in the Fortune 500.  However, two key trends are making this an interesting proposition for many enterprises.

One is that more enterprises are requiring more levels of programmability and customization for their data center applications. Whether it’s on-premises cloud, security, monitoring, or management, making the network dynamic for a specific application is hard to achieve with legacy equipment that locks a company into a single vendor.

Two is market maturation. There are clear players in the white box space – both for hardware providers and the software NOS. There are also well-known brands backing these products, such as Dell and HPE. This gives enterprise buyers more peace of mind when it comes to reliability and support for their data center infrastructure.

In a recent survey, 11% of enterprises said they would look at white box options for building out a new data center network. I think we will see some interesting stories come out with Fortune 500 companies going with disaggregated white box options in their data centers.

4. IoT Will Force SDN Adoption Into Campus

Typically overlooked, campus networks are about to get much more leading edge in terms of SDN flexibility and production.

White box options for non-data center environments are becoming more widespread.  Features such as PoE, centralized management, stacking, identity and access management controls, are making their way onto data sheets for white box switches with disaggregated NOS.

Also, SDN is becoming a key differentiator and more critical to managing and controlling these networks.  Why?  If we consider the major trends in these environments – IoT, connected unmanaged devices, mobility, and security – it stands to reason that being able to segment and control network access and policy in a simplified way is a top requirement.

SDN is a perfect way to aggregate this information, and the solutions that make this job easier for the overworked enterprise network operator are going to land some big wins.

5. One of the Top 5 Networking Vendors (not Brocade) Will be Acquired

Acquisitions happen all the time, but a big player making bold moves and acquiring a big networking company (> $5B market cap) doesn’t happen all that often.

Why do I think this will happen? The move to cloud is driving the majority of the movement, and cloud infrastructure providers will continue to look long and hard at networking to see what fits the right gap in their portfolio. The networking player that positions itself best for the cloud, integration with virtual networks, integration with servers and storage, and the right hooks for SDN, applications and the ecosystem will be a prime candidate for this move.

With Cisco moving more and more into the hyper-converged infrastructure space, I think a major player will look to bolster its portfolio with a strong networking play in the coming year.

So who is buying and who is selling?  Only time will tell.

So there you have it – five predictions – some bold, some maybe not so bold.  Either way, it will definitely be an interesting ride in 2017!