The Open Networking Summit took place a week ago (April 16-18) in Santa Clara and showcased the tremendous progress the SDN and OpenFlow industry has made over the last few months. Several SDN users publicly talked about their implementations at this event including a couple of Big Switch Networks customers.

Overwhelming attendance

The previous event in October 2011 at Stanford was already supercharged with excitement around this new networking approach with 400 attendees (200 additional people were unfortunately on the waiting list and could not be accommodated). This time, the event more than doubled in size with 900 attendees, and yet another 200 on the waiting list. As the number of participants increased, so did the variety of companies attending with more than 30 countries and 350 companies represented. No matter how big the ONS organizers plan, the interest in all things SDN continues to grow faster than their forecast.

More business oriented audience and discussions

While the last ONS audience was heavily biased towards vendors and SDN technology deep dives, this time a more balanced mix of users and vendors participated. On behalf of the Open Networking Foundation, I had the pleasure of organizing the tutorial for product managers the Monday preceding the conference. The audience of more than 150 participants had a healthy share of Enterprise IT leaders investigating this technology. They were asking very targeted questions and had the clear desire to leave the conference with a concrete action plan for their network evolution. Discussions and presentations focused on use cases and customer benefits rather than the technology itself.

Real diverse use case examples

During the tutorial, existing users came on stage to share their experience. Matt Davy from Indiana University presented campus use cases deployed on their HP infrastructure and Jim Harding described Codonis’ implementation of Enterprise Data Centers solutions on a Juniper Networks infrastructure (Q-fabric).

Monday morning - Full room at the tutorial for product manager session

At the previous ONS, service providers were the main proponents of this technology while enterprises were not clear on the associated benefits. As Matt and Jim shared their experience further in the plenary session at the conference, they were joined by Eric Murray from Kindred Healthcare and by the much publicized Urs Hoelzle from Google (more on this announcement in Omar’s blog). All these different testimonials provided strong answers to the questions on scale and viability left open at the end of the first ONS in October. Even more importantly, they addressed the community’s interest in seeing real world implementations for both carriers and traditional enterprises.

G-Scale WAN Usage

Flurry of commercial demonstrations

Back in October the majority of the demonstrations were around research projects taking place in universities. This year, the number of vendors showcasing OpenFlow-enabled demos from infrastructure to SDN-aware Layer4-7 applications significantly increased. The show floor quadrupled in size and was split into two spaces: the biggest one was for commercial products with another smaller one for research. Several major infrastructure vendors were present such as Arista, Brocade, Citrix, Dell, Extreme Networks, HP, IBM, or NEC validating the flurry of announcements made in recent months. The controller vendors were quite busy as well. On our side we had 5 demonstrations leveraging our SDN controller on different partner booths.

More application oriented

Some of them were even integrating with SDN-aware applications such as Dell leveraging their Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM) application and OpenStack as well as vArmour using our open source controller Floodlight to dynamically implement security policies on the data forwarding plane as malicious traffic is discovered. IP infusion was demonstrating how failure recovery could be improved thanks to SDN, while HP showed how multiple controllers could work collectively within the same network.

Great Ramp-Up for Next Week’s Interop

All this activity is very promising for the upcoming Interop event in Las Vegas next week. SDN and OpenFlow will be hot topics with a workshop Monday 5/7 and a session on Wednesday 5/9. Big Switch Networks will perform interoperability testing and demos with more than 15 partners over 5 booths. We look forward to seeing you there!

Big Switch Networks – Interop Ecosystem