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The Plexxi Pulse – Integrating with SolarWinds

In December Plexxi will be doing another Demo Friday with SDNCentral to show how Plexxi’s SDN solutions integrate with SolarWinds' leading monitoring capabilities. The Demo aims to explain what occurs when infrastructure data is applied across multiple components of the IT infrastructure. You can register for Demo Friday here, and if you want a sneak peak at this exciting integration, Simon McCormack from Plexxi and Francois Caron at SolarWinds give a presentation on thwackCamp 2013. Check out the video to find out more! Here are a few of my reads this week in the Plexxi Pulse – enjoy!

Network World’s Jim Duffy details two different approaches to OpenFlow and SDN, with Marist College and Bloomberg. Jim says that while Marist College has been very aggressive with OpenFlow as a means for interconnected data centers, Bloomberg has taken a slower hybrid approach with OpenFlow for monitoring and tapping and then using network virtualization overlays for scaling its data center fabric. I think this is a great article for a few reasons. Whenever we move past theory into practice, it helps everyone because these concrete examples are great for learning best practices. On the more subtle side, it's great to see Truman Boyes, Bloomberg network architect for Research & Development, talk about the organizational aspects of this kind of change. Ultimately, the human capital issues will be harder to work through than the technology once you achieve a sizable deployment. Acknowledging that up front is a big step. I also like that Bloomberg is looking at a host of vendors. The comments addressing how you can help influence the roadmap are very interesting and quite strategic, and I hadn't thought of that as a reason to be an early adopter.

Dan O'Shea, a contributor to Light Reading, says not to believe what Ciena Corp. CTO, Steve Alexander, claimed during a speech at Interop recently – that SDN is "under-hyped.” Dan is concerned that “a new wave of unbridled optimism could result from the belief that SDN is under-hyped” and directly impede the technology’s future. I agree with the premise of this post, in that a negative outcome results from creating a false sense of reality. I also think that many of the networking people live in a relatively small echo chamber. The blogging community, Twitterverse, and even websites are frequented by a relatively small percentage of the networking population, who self-select into the more informed group. The smaller networking online interactions result in a debate on the finer points of the technology, and generally make things seem more well-known and understood than they are.  Outside the echo chamber, however, there is a surprising amount of unawareness. While I think it is getting better over time, I don't think we should assume that the layperson actually knows enough about what is going on. This might not require hype to address, but thoughtful proliferation of the message beyond the major circles is necessary if more than just the most willing are going to make the SDN leap.

Saro Velrajan at SDNCentral  provided an overview of why we need more SDN applications this week. Saro argues the most exciting opportunities lie in the applications that can be built on SDN’s framework. I think Saro’s point that applications are key in the rise of SDN is absolutely correct. We talk so frequently about the underlying protocols that some are convinced that the mere support of these protocols constitutes a useful SDN implementation. That is obviously not true. One of the things that will inhibit the development of applications though is the lack of a clear dominant player on the controller space. Without a common set of abstractions to work from or a single player to write to, the application developers have no guarantee that their apps will be portable across a large enough cross-section of the SDN-wielding universe. This will slow app development in my opinion. In the meantime, we need to see progress on the abstraction and API fronts, along with some consolidation around a smaller set of controllers. In the rush for everyone to own a piece of the controller space, we will end up with a very difficult application environment. We might be shooting ourselves in the foot on this one.

FierceTelecom’s Sean Buckley examines a recent remark from CenturyLink's vice president of network strategy and development, James Feger, at TIA 2013. He doesn't see SDN making a huge impact, particularly in the Telecom environment anytime soon. I love when customers break us out of our collective echo chamber and tell us about the more practical considerations. Feger is absolutely right when he talks about MPLS and SDN. SDN might be even vaguer than MPLS as it is really just a category of technologies, but his point that you don't buy the technology is spot on. We have gotten so wrapped around the axle about OpenFlow or whatever protocols people want to use. We have spent 12 months fighting a war to define everything. Customers aren't going to care about crisp definitions, but will ultimately look for the value. Anyway, a little reality in the morning read is a nice thing.

Howard Baldwin a contributor to Forbes, discusses the two big topics from Interop last week, which include network virtualization and SDN. I think this article was a good summary of the dialogue from the conference. That said, I am not entirely certain that the concepts in practice will necessarily be an either/or between overlays and controller-based approaches. The network virtualization efforts are solving the problem of edge policy portability. In layperson language that means you have to configure a bunch of capabilities at the edge of the network – things like access control, quality of service, VLANs, etc. These are tough to do because process varies on a vendor-by-vendor basis. Because they are managed at the edge of the network, there are more devices to configure. That by itself makes things difficult, but when you add dynamism to the data center, it gets even harder. Every time something moves or changes, it is needlessly difficult to update the entire policy configuration, so what network virtualization does is create a container for everything. That virtual overlay still has to traverse an actual network, however, and that network still has to be administered. Having a single (or small number of) control points has value and the ability to automate workflows from the SDN controller is still valuable. It might be that the two co-exist in some environments.

The post The Plexxi Pulse – Integrating with SolarWinds appeared first on Plexxi.

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More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

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