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5 Networking Thank You’s and Turkeys

Everyone and their mother does a light blog before the holidays. US Thanksgiving lends itself well to Thank You's and Turkeys. Here are my top five of each:

Cisco – A big thank you goes out to Cisco for changing the industry dialogue to something that puts applications first. You can debate hardware vs. software, deep integration vs. loose federations, and single-vendor vs. multi-vendor. But at the end of the day, their ACI launch was about putting applications first, simplifying edge policy, and orchestrating workload resources across disparate parts of the infrastructure. Forgetting the specific merits or flaws of the design, this is an important shift. And when Cisco helps change the focus for the industry (and uses its marketing might to help), that is good for everyone.

Juniper – Another big thank you goes out to a big incumbent. Juniper proves that even the big guys are willing to dive head first into the open source world. Their OpenContrail efforts show that the point of control is important, and that open source can have a meaningful place in the strategy of players both small and large. Juniper has also been pushing the fact that there are multiple ways to manage the network, helping to extend the SDN discussion beyond just OpenFlow. Anything that promotes broad awareness gets a thank you in my book.

OpenDaylight – And speaking of open source, no thank you list would be complete without OpenDaylight. A big thank you to the titans of industry who showed that collaboration between competitors is possible, particularly when the stakes are so high. But we should not overlook the fact that despite being founded by companies, OpenDaylight will succeed on the backs of individuals. Those people who are spending their nights and weekends committing code that they believe will make a difference deserve a huge thank you. At the end of the day, their drive is not derived from corporate affiliation but rather a passion for solving problems. And the entire industry will be better off for it.

VMWare and Nicira – Forget NSX for a moment. What VMWare and Nicira have done for our industry is expand networking beyond the typical players who have dominated for years. The fact that VMWare has dived into the fray has made networking interesting again. And because it is interesting (and potentially lucrative), we are seeing new talent. Younger talent with software not networking backgrounds is coming off the sidelines. These new brains will keep us old codgers on our toes, and the influx of new ideas is exactly what our industry needs. It also creates a stronger duopoly (at least in terms of thought leadership), which is good for customers. 

Cumulus Networks – I love that a small startup has come in and turned things upside down. Cumulus provides hope that a good idea founded on solid architectural principles can succeed. But beyond the obvious, they are also key in promoting a platform that is really ideal for DevOps. Networking is moving, at least in part, to a platform-based approach where the toolkits and frameworks that need to plug into the solution are as important as the underlying device itself. Using Linux and enabling automation are both good moves, and I think it helps show networking diehards that the future might not necessarily be a straightforward extension of the present.

But this networking world is not free from turkeys. Here are my top five:

ONS – As SDN has moved from concept to reality, the Open Networking Summit was in a position to be the only authentic, truly technical forum for the industry. Sadly, this year saw a left turn straight into Marketingville. The show was more about hype than reality, more product than technology. While it is worth pointing out that these events are big moneymakers (products in their own right), it was a bit sad to see Vint Cerf dressed up as Bond and parachuting in. If anything signals a departure from technology, it is a highly-produced video. I would have preferred less glitz and more authenticity. For 2014, the event giveaway should be sandals and tie dye Star Wars t-shirts if only to get closer to engineering again.

Big Switch – This is a tough one for me, but this has been an undoubtedly tough year for Big Switch. Changes in CEO, sales, engineering, and marketing are always tough to do. Doing them all in one year can be downright impossible. I hope they manage the transition well. But the issues extend beyond just personnel. The OpenDaylight exchange was a tough one for everyone, and going it alone will not be easy. OpenFlow seems to have lost some of its luster as broader SDN frameworks take center stage. I suspect the holidays will be a time of regrouping for Big Switch, and hopefully we see them emerge stronger than ever.

OpenFlow – A year ago, the seminal SDN protocol was all anyone was talking about. This year, the news is all about frameworks and solutions. OpenFlow is no longer the media darling, having been supplanted by NSX, ACI, and any number of supporting technologies (PCE, ALTO, BGP-TE, I2RS, and so on). I don't think OpenFlow is in any danger of going away, but the drop from the headlines is certainly notable. It will be interesting to see if this portends troubles in companies that have bet heavily on OpenFlow as their primary SDN strategy.

ITU – This one has flown under the radar for most, but about a year ago there was a very real effort by the ITU to essentially wrest control of telecommunications standards from the IETF. The agreed upon regulations that dictate how the world's telecommunications all interoperate were up for grabs in a big meeting in Dubai. The lead up to this meeting was chaotic as nations jockeyed for position. Flash forward a year and much of the noise has died down. Major members of the UN balked. The sending party pays provisions seem to be lacking the support they once had. What once looked like a potential doomsday scenario now looks like another multi-year campaign. But people should not think that this is over – the fight is just beginning.

Arista and the Spline – Arista appears to have accelerated launch plans to preempt the Insieme launch. In doing so, they announced a bigger box with lower cost per port. The whole world was talking software and applications, which made the hardware announcement feel oddly out of place. And then when Insieme did launch a full two days later, they cut the prices even further. Arista is doing great work for sure. Their software and automation capabilities are fantastic, and they have been a pioneer with merchant silicon. But tactically, this launch felt a bit ham-handed.

[Today's fun fact: Rhode Island is the smallest state with the longest name. The official name, used on all state documents, is "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations." Talk about little guy syndrome!]

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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."