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SDN and InteropNet: Cranking up and running world's biggest temporary network

Jon Gold | May 7, 2013
Hundreds of exhibitors and thousands of attendees all depend on a network managed by 23 different vendors

Dave Link, the CEO of network monitoring vendor ScienceLogic, is another InteropNet old hand -- his company has been involved in the project for the last five years.

"Some of the brightest operations and [network operations center] guys from around the globe -- not just from the vendors, because the vendors come with their best [systems engineers] and engineering resources, often with code that's beta code, or their latest and greatest products -- and they come, again, in the spirit of making sure it's going to work at Interop together," he says. "There's a focus on solving the problem, regardless of what that fix is."

ScienceLogic's task, like those of all companies participating in InteropNet, requires careful coordination and immense attention to detail. As the front end for the operational monitoring and management functions, the company's product needs to interface flawlessly with everything else on the network.

The new prominence of software-defined networking, Link admits, has made ScienceLogic's job a little more complicated. Compensating for the transient nature of SDN connections -- i.e., not sounding the alarm when a virtual link is purposefully dropped -- is a new wrinkle.

Being a part of InteropNet is a big potential PR boost for a vendor -- few companies would pass up the chance to demonstrate not only that their products work as advertised, but that they play well with others as well.

"We don't love filling out the 60-page [request for proposal] every year," quips Link, "but we do it because we love what this challenge represents."

However, all the attention can backfire if something goes wrong.

"Of course, we would like the volunteer network engineers to absolutely love [our product] -- if they were to come out with a big yawn and say 'that didn't help,' that would make me nervous," says Carl Moberg, vice president for technology at software-defined networking provider Tail-f Systems.

It's Tail-f's first time as a part of InteropNet. So while Moberg is a little nervous, he says, that's outweighed by his excitement.

"I think nervousness goes through every vendor participating in something that puts you so much on a soapbox as the Interop show floor. ... Certainly we're nervous, and like with every centerline solution you can find, of course, we wouldn't want to screw up the network, but again, I think we're pretty confident," he asserts.

Tail-f's prominent role in this year's InteropNet -- the Swedish company's Network Control System is the SDN fabric of choice -- could add to the pressure. But the collegial atmosphere at the initial setup proved encouraging.

"It's a pretty positive competition -- if [companies are] in an environment where they know their own environment won't cut it ... people are pretty eager to help," he says. "They have their work cut out for them just to get this stuff working."

We'll see how everything turns out this week in Las Vegas.

 

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