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Big Switch Networks CTO Rob Sherwood on SDN in 2015: The time is now

Art Fewell | March 10, 2015
I recently had the chance to sit down with Rob Sherwood, CTO of Big Switch Networks to get his insight on whats hot with SDN for 2015.

[Rob] What's fascinating to me is, Big Switch has a virtual switch and we'll be shipping it later this year. The virtual switch literally cannot tell the difference between a VM on one side versus a Docker container. The way that the Linux virtual Ethernet works on that type of thing. From a networking perspective, Docker doesn't really change much. You still need something that looks like a vSwitch, with the functionality that a vSwitch has, but better. It actually increases, if you want to think of it in these terms, it's kind of the VM density so you can actually get much higher density with Docker. You can spin them up a little bit faster, it's a little bit lighter so maybe there's a little bit more churn on that side but a lot of the fundamental policies don't' really change. This is to say, most people treat a collection of VMs as an application, Docker just lets you do that faster and cheaper. All the policies and the user experience and the management objects and things like that, all of those things will stay the same.

[Art] Well, that's great. It just seems ... I think that's also really, particularly for the enterprises, if you're at the leading edges of web tech, you're going to see a lot more of the warts of the technology, if you will. I think, particularly for the enterprise, it seems to me that things are getting really streamlined for Docker to where pretty quickly the management and orchestration stuff that surrounds VMs today will probably be equally applicable in most systems for Docker containers tomorrow. Does that sound about right?

[Rob] Yeah, absolutely. It's, honestly, I definitely see the benefit of the data center industry converging in terms of storage, compute and networking and all of these things but people are still learning the skill sets. Honestly, I think it's the case that companies are coming in to solve specific problems and are not necessarily aware of the problem from the other side, the facts as it were. Being able to bring the solutions wholesale from the other side of the fence I think will really help accelerate the adoption of these types of technology.

[Art] If you're a business, you need to take part in this internet of things thing, pretty much no matter what product you make you probably fit in that somewhere. You need to be aggressive, you need to be innovative and it seems to me open networking, SDN is really key to that. I'm curious about your thoughts?

[Rob] Absolutely. Honestly, that's actually what gets me up in the morning. That's really what motivates me, which is you look at the explosion of applications that happened when all of the sudden people could write apps for smartphones, or even further back when people were moving from mainframes to PCs where people could invent their own programs. You're actually enabling everybody in the world to become an innovator here and it'll be fascinating to see what happens. At the same time with internet of things, there's kind of unprecedented security issues. The idea of having my toaster or my garbage disposal online is a little bit scary.


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