All together now! TIA 2013 debates the orchestration of the Network of the Future

Sep 20, 2013

Now, I don't want to come over all unnecessarily Wagnerian, (I do find that the lederhosen tend to chafe somewhat as autumn draws on, as it were), but the concept of the 'leitmotif' is particularly associated with the aforementioned Richard. He used the device to bind together and identify disparate elements in a story with short musical themes related to specific characters, things, events and situations.

And that notion brought me round to thinking about what the leitmotif for SDN might be.

Well, to my mind it's got to be the music from "Jaws"! The main 'shark' theme in the film is a simple alternating two-note pattern that the composer, John Williams, described as "grinding away at you... instinctual, relentless and unstoppable." And if that doesn't fit the hoped-for and expected inexorable ubiquity of the cloud and Software Defined Networks, Anno Domini 2013, I don't know what does.

It's also not for nothing that network services for the cloud are more and more often referred to in terms of "network orchestration" processes.

You see, there are musical references are everywhere, but, as has long been the case, from Mozart, jazz, rock, pop and through Dylan, the Beatles, punk, grime, grunge, be-bob, hip-hop, flip-flop and all the rest, the iconclastic breakthrough bands of true originality are, almost invariably, tiny little start-ups that, in comparison to established orchestras, have little money, organisation or market power. But what they do have are radical ideas, messianic zeal, a mission, complete focus, determination - and not too much to lose if everything goes belly-up.

As the potential of SDN becomes more apparent the big incumbents, those huge globe-trotting orchestras with and superstar divo conductors, are beginning to play along to the new tunes that are edging out the middle-of-the-road, easy-going repertoires that have been their comfortable stock-in-trade for many a year.

Sure, a few of the big boys are making a production number of lustily bawling-out the new choruses but far too many others are just humming ever so quietly in the background, paying lip service to changing times but secretly hoping all the incoherent noise will soon die down, normality will re-asssert itself and it'll be back to business as usual before you can say "How'd you like to buy a router or two?"

And what about the people who are paying for the tickets to get in to the show? The bands, big and small alike, are asking them to buy into the belief that their version of creative credibility and technical ability will result in a mutually beneficial long-term relationship.

The trouble is, as we know only to well from our own music collections, slavishly following the whims of an indulged rock star can end in expensive myth-busting disaster. I mean, has anyone ever listened to Dylan's 'Self Portrait' more than once? If you have - please accept both by admiration and commiserations.

My point is that if vendors and manufacturers are still debating the very definition of SDN, (and they are) where does this leave the enterprises and organisations that are going to buy their various 'solutions'?

The winds of hype have filled its sails, the SDN juggernaut has momentum, is on its way and woe betide anyone foolish enough to try to stop it. Today it is not a matter of when SDN will be launched and more one where it will end up, how long it will take to get there and what kind of a shape it will be in when it does finally arrive.

The fact is that a software defined network certainly will be to the benefit and advantage of almost any enterprise or organisation you care to name but, even so, it might be prudent to start a relationship with SDN slowly and steadily rather than marrying in haste and repenting at leisure.

Vendors are still working on the development of SDN-compatible products. and although SDN has arisen from the “OpenFlow,” standard, the existence of that standard does not, to date, guarantee a commoditisation of the market.

That is some time away given that different vendors have different strategies; and those might yet turn out to be more like incumbent solutions rather that disruptor strategies.

In other words, the big orchestras might be cumbersome and staid but they still play a mean fiddle and pull in the punters. That's why it might be an idea for enterprises to wait a while to see how venerable vendors such as Cisco, HP, Intel, Juniper et al actually stack-up against each other and vis-a-vis upstart market disruptors, before plumping for a winner.

I'm hoping to pick up some pointers and discern a direction at TIA2013.

And now... to finish on a non-musical yet still classical note... Hippocrates told us; "Ars longa, vita brevis, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile. That is; "Art is long, life is short, opportunity fleeting, experience perilous, decision difficult" - an aphorism that fits cloud and SDN like a snugly-cut Savile Row three piece. Suits you Sir!

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