Occupy Protest

Do We Need to Occupy SDN?

Occupy ProtestIs this one of those rare times in which the ongoing discussion of SDN can learn something from grass roots politics? One of the drivers of the recent Occupy Wallstreet movement was that the richest 1% of people in the US controls an inordinate amount of wealth. What’s the connection to SDN? In the SDN world, the top 1% of companies seems to be getting most, if not all of the attention relative to SDN and Network Virtualization. Let’s call this the SDN 1% rule.

One example of the SDN 1% rule is Google’s often-discussed use of SDN to connect their data centers. This is clearly a very interesting example of how SDN can be applied. Google, however, built their own SDN switches. How many companies that aren’t a hyper-scale data center are going to build their own switches just to implement SDN? I suggest that none will. Hence, Google’s use of SDN in the WAN, while terribly interesting, isn’t something that will be replicated by 99% of the Fortune 500 companies.

Speaking of hyper-scale data centers, I had Igor Gashinsky on a panel of mine at the recent Interop conference. Igor is a distinguished architect at Yahoo! and his role on the panel was to discuss Yahoo!’s use of SDN and Network Virtualization. As Igor explained, Yahoo’s use of this tech was driven in large part by their need to be able to scale their data center in ways that are not possible with traditional solutions. To put Yahoo’s challenge in perspective, the typical Fortune 500 company that I work with often has a couple of thousand servers in each of their large data centers. Yahoo has roughly 200,000 servers in their data center in New York. That is one hundred times more servers than the typical Fortune 500 company has.  There’s no doubt that what Yahoo has done with SDN and Network Virtualization is fascinating, but the scaling issues they face aren’t something that will be faced by 99% of the Fortune 500 companies.

Another group of companies that gets a lot of attention relative to their use of SDN is the high-end financial companies such as J.P. Morgan, Fidelity, and Goldman Sachs. These companies do bear more of a resemblance to the vast majority of IT organizations than do the hyper-scale data centers, but in some ways, however, they are quite different. In high-end financial companies it’s well understood by the senior management that they compete based on their use of IT. Because of that recognition, these companies are often very early adopters of new technologies, and have the sophisticated IT staff that can support the systems engineering and troubleshooting that goes along with implementing alpha or beta versions of products.

So what about the other 99% of the companies on the Fortune 500 list? What kind of attention do they need? One thing they need is a clear identification of exactly what problems or opportunities can best be solved using SDN, and they need guidance in creating the associated business cases. They also need the industry to quickly get to where SDN can be implemented without requiring sophisticated systems engineering and where management tools enable the typical Fortune 500 IT organization to troubleshoot problems with no more difficulty than exists in their current environment.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

About the author
Jim Metzler
Jim has a broad background in the IT industry. This includes serving as a software engineer, an engineering manager for high-speed data services for a major network service provider, a product manager for network hardware, a network manager at two Fortune 500 companies, and the principal of a consulting organization. In addition, Jim has created software tools for designing customer networks for a major network service provider and directed and performed market research at a major industry analyst firm. Jim’s current interests include both cloud networking and application and service delivery. Jim has a Ph.D. in Mathematics from Boston University.
  • Joshua Toon

    It is inappropriate to repurpose the language of a social protest for economic equality into a bad marketing analogy for how your firm will try to sell new products to the companies responsible for that very inequality. It wasn’t clever. It wasn’t insightful. You should steer clear of an area of US politics that has the potential to destabilize the civil fabric of the country. This was bad marketing that shows a level of political deaf-ness that won’t convince your friends to like you more but will, definitely, make you new enemies. So stop it and apologize.

  • JImMetzler

    I want to point out where I disagree with your comment. First, I didn’t write the blog in an attempt to sell products to anybody. I wrote it quite simply to try to focus more of the discussion of SDN around the vast majority of companies who need more of a plug and play solution than is needed by the hyper-scale data centers. I also reject your implication that my clients are responsible for social inequality. That is flagrantly false. Finally, while I disagree with what you wrote in your comment, at least I understood most of it. Then you made the statement that I wrote the blog to convince my friends to like me more. I am still shaking my head in amazement over that comment.