2012: The Year of Software Defined Networking

The start of VMworld 2012, the biggest Virtualization conference of the year, is less than two weeks away.  The surge of marketing emails have started to arrive, announcing all the new and exciting offerings that the venders and 3rd party companies are planning on showing off at VMworld. This is one of the things I enjoy the most about attending these conferences, seeing what’s new and the direction of the trends in virtualization. At last year’s show, VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas, the trend that I saw was the advancements in storage and storage virtualization.  My prediction at the end of VMworld 2011 was that 2012 would be the year for the network virtualization and/or software defined networking.

My prediction did not quite happen as quickly as I had thought, but then again summer is not usually the best time for companies to really make announcements and/or to release new updates or products.  Now that summer is nearly coming to an end and with the kids heading back to school, I am really starting to see things getting ramped up.

In July of 2012 I began to see the first steps of the network journey into virtualization start to take place when I created a post about VMware sponsorship of the Open Network Research Center (ONRC) and its purpose to further the development of software defined networking but to also counter the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) by Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Duetsche Telcom, Verizon and Yahoo. This group is backing the standardization of open source SDN protocol Openflow.

In the last month, VMware acquired a network virtualization company named Nicira. VMware and Cisco have a strategic partnership and together with EMC make up The Virtual Computing Environment Company (VCE). This may seem like a breakdown in the partnership between VMware and Cisco with VMware’s purchase of Nicira. One of my first thoughts was that Cisco has missed the boat and there is no area of virtualization that VMware does not want to call its own. As it turns out Cisco has a sizable investment in Insieme, which happens to be a direct competitor of Nicira, and has the option to buy the company outright. This seems to indicate that the virtual networking market is getting hot and in time could really start to boil.

Adding fuel to the fire, Oracle made a recent announcement that an agreement has been made for Oracle to buy San Jose-based Xsigo.  This announcement was made a week after the announcement of VMware’s acquisition of Nicira. Is this a coincidence?  Or maybe this really gives a strong indication of the importance of getting networking into the virtual stack. These products are different in that Xsigo is known for using Infiniband technology to build data centers, while Nicira focuses more on using software to control networks. However, Oracle continually referred to Xsigo as a software-defined networking company, which might mean bigger changes for Xsigo going forward.

This should be just the start of the acquisition and other announcements that should be coming up in the next month or so, as well as the new technologies that have yet been brought to the spotlight.  Virtual networking or software defined networking is just starting to take shape and I believe the really cool stuff has yet to be seen.  A few years back when you said you were running almost 100% virtual, that thought was really about the number of servers that were virtualized. Now that definition is being changed to how much of the infrastructure stack has been virtualized?

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