ostrich with head buried

Cloud, SDN, and The Perils of Ignoring Reality

ostrich with head buriedUnlike people with regular jobs (a questionable premise for a mainly IT audience, but just play along with me for a moment) I spend most of my working hours reading, researching and talking to analysts and the builders, sellers. and buyers of IT products and services. Not surprisingly, not everybody — STRIKE THATrarely does everybody agree about what is going on in the IT ecosystem.

Take, for instance, two of the rising stars of this ecosystem, cloud and SDN. Recently I’ve been writing extensively about both topics, which means I’ve been spending a lot of hours reading, researching, and talking to analysts and the builders, sellers, and buyers of cloud and SDN products and services.

The consensus is… that there is NO consensus:

  • cloud and SDN are taking over the world (research companies and cloud-and SDN-centric vendors);
  • maybe the cloud and SDN will take over the world, but not yet (Cisco and most legacy IT&T vendors, sellers and customers); and,
  • something new will come along and cloud and/or SDN will be superseded by another miracle technology (skeptics and customers ignoring reality, i.e. the problems with Networking’s Four Vs – volume, velocity, variety and variability).

You have to give the skeptics the benefit of the doubt because not all miracle technologies work out. As for the ostrich fans, sticking your head in the sand only means you won’t have to watch as disaster strikes.

However, for the first two groups, there is ample evidence to support both positions. Sales results and sales forecasts for SDN and cloud are all over the map, predicting feast AND famine. A new report on the 2014 Data Center and Enterprise SDN Hardware and Software market states that data center and enterprise SDN revenue, including SDN-capable Ethernet switches and SDN controllers, was up 192% year-over-year (2013 over 2012). “There is no longer any question about software-defined networking (SDN) playing a role in data center and enterprise networks,” said Cliff Grossner, Ph.D., directing analyst for data center, cloud, and SDN at Infonetics Research.

“Even more eye opening,” he added, “In-use for SDN Ethernet switch revenue, including branded Ethernet switches, virtual switches, and bare metal switches, grew more than 10-fold in 2013 from the prior year, driven by significant increases in white box bare metal switch deployments by very large cloud service providers such as Google and Amazon.” Infonetics forecasts the “real” market for SDN — that is, in-use for SDN Ethernet switches and controllers — to reach $9.5 billion in 2018.

There are similar numbers for cloud, indicating that like SDN, it still has a long way to go before we stop talking about these new technologies and start debating about what comes next. But here’s my issue with Mark Twain’s “lies, damn lies, and statistics”: while statistics may be the biggest lies of all, networking’s problems are very real, and they’re getting worse. So if SDN and cloud aren’t the solutions, then their alternatives had better show up soon.

Image credit: Zsantz (deviantArt) / CC-BY