The Pivot to SDN: Enabler or Impediment?

If you’re like me, you’ve already grown tired of the word “pivot” when used to describe a shift in a company’s strategy, a politician’s lies, or an industry’s focus. Yet indeed it appears as if the cloud computing industry’s focus has suddenly shifted, er, pivoted, from processing and storage to networks.

VMware’s $1-billion+ Nicira acquisition, followed quickly by Oracle’s sort-of-related Xsigo acquisition has turned our heads. Suddenly, the network is the most important thing, and SDN is the new star peaking through the clouds. Never mind that is a LAN technology, not really SDN. A network by any other name…

Fortunately, the letters “SDN” don’t have nearly as snappy an appearance or sound as “cloud,” so we miserable scribes, analysts, and marketeers are in no danger of having to pivot anytime soon.

There’s more good news here in that it’s high time we started talking more about the network, specifically the Internet, aka the “cloud” in “cloud computing.” Network failovers have been the culprit behind the recent AWS blackouts – and this has not been the fault of the Internet, but rather the way we’re managing it.

The new focus on networking virtualization software is no doubt making people at Cisco nervous. It seems to me this shouldn’t be the case except for those in the organization who have to plan long-term market growth – SDN in theory should make Internet plumbing vastly more efficient, thereby reducing future demand for it. But we’re so far from optimizing network traffic, and the anticipated growth in traffic fueled by small devices and video should maintain a strong demand for Internet tubes, pipes, valves, and fittings for a long time.

The real challenge to the big vendors and to enterprise buyers is to future-proof plans that may look like they’ll become obsolete before they’re deployed. This is a great time for analysis paralysis within the world of cloud computing.

So the question to me is, does SDN pivot mean that potential bottlenecks which impeded plans are now removed, or has it added a layer of complexity that will further impede plans?

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