OpenFlow and SDN in 2012 – A Look Back

Before starting to discuss where 2013 will take us with SDN, I’d like to recap some of the significant SDN events for 2012. Below is a breakdown of the major events in chronological order.

IBM & NEC ship commercial OpenFlow networking products – By forming a GTM alliance, and actively solving customer problems, IBM and NEC delivered a large scale, high speed, low latency network solution powering Tervela’s Big Data platform as well as Selerity’s real-time data analysis platform.

ONF turns one – Despite the fact that the Open Network Foundation (ONF) was founded in 2011, it’s likely most of us never heard of it until 2012. The Open Networking Summit (ONS) in April 2012 was practically the first significant get together of vendors, carriers and other datacenter operators to discuss the future.

Google revealed it is using OpenFlow – One of the more exciting talks at the April 2012 ONS was the talk from Google in which Urs Hölzle clearly articulated the business benefits Google has realized by using OpenFlow for the DC Interconnect network. Additionally, Google revealed that they build their own OpenFlow switches.

Cisco Spin off of Insieme and Defines ONE Strategy – With Cisco Investing in, and defining a strategy around SDN, SDN went from niche status into a technology everyone networking should pay attention to.

HP announces OpenFlow and SDN products – Early in 2012 HP announced OpenFlow switches, later announcing an SDN switch product line. HP backed their announcements with specific customer references and continues their market share takeover efforts by strongly pitching SDN.

Nicira Acquired by VMware for a lot… – If I were to select the one most significant event in SDN for 2012, there is no doubt that Nicira’s acquisition would be the one. VMware’s move officially established that SDN is worth the money and isn’t just another cool technology that needs to be discussed.

Contrail Acquired by Juniper for not as much… – Juniper, which continuously positions itself at the forefront of networking technology thought leadership had to make a move into SDN. Though the move was a reactive one that followed the rest of the industry, it was an investment into SDN technology by a significant network equipment manufacturer with a stronghold in carrier networks.

Having taken a look back at the evolution of SDN in 2012, for me, 2013 is the year in which the information technology world educates itself about what SDN is and how it relates to OpenFlow. Public knowledge is getting to a point where the SDN acronym roughly represents similar things to broad audiences. I believe that throughout 2012 SDN and OpenFlow were understood to be descriptively unique and having a certain relation to each other. 2013 is the year in which SDN will be further explored and common market understanding should be established. But what are the surprises and the commercial realities that remain to be uncovered? To find out, stay tuned for part two of this post where I take a look at where SDN is heading in 2013.

Lior Cohen

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