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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] That's exactly it. The short, short version of what Big Switch is trying to do is trying to learn from what we call the hyper-scale players, not even the Fortune 100, but the Fortune 5. What is Amazon doing, what is Facebook doing? Then trying to figure out. It's almost like treating Big Switch like the company's outsourced development firm. We will be the Google engineering team for you so you don't have to hire them. That means the technical challenge that we solve is actually harder than what these companies are doing. They only have to solve it for one use case or a couple of use cases, but we have to solve it for all of them. The end result is we actually end up with a more robust solution, something that takes account a lot of use cases. It's actually pretty exciting, customers are very responsive too, "I want to do what Amazon does, but I don't want to have to do it the way that Amazon did it." I think that is resonating quite well.

[Art] I don't think that the pace of innovation is going to slow down. To me it seems, the inevitable result is that there's going to be a lot of innovation. If you have a business that their job is making widgets, they make toilet paper rolls, I don't know; that company shouldn't rightfully be focused on engineering the most efficient data center in the world but they should be able to get that performance impact. In the past, it's never really been possible. I think today with engineered solutions, and especially when built on the new web-scale SDN framework; it really starts to introduce that type of possibility.

[Rob] The other side of this, which people aren't talking about as much but I think is really important, which is to say in the Googles, and Facebooks, and Amazons of the world; they are not networking vendors. They're only doing this because they feel like they have to. Which is to say, the incumbent vendors that they would traditionally buy equipment from are not meeting their needs. I think more and more people are finding that.

[Art] Out of all the different open networking summits, there were tons of really big light bulb, ah-ha moments that has happened in all of those. I think possibly the biggest of all those was, I think it was with the first, maybe the second ONS where Google got on stage and was saying, 'Hey, we've asked every single vendor,' all the vendors by the way, who happen to be sitting there in the room, which is just hilarious. 'We asked every single vendor to help us build the type of switch we wanted to build and every single one said no. We had to go build it ourselves and that was really great because we're getting over 90% efficiency on our WAN and we are realizing all these powerful benefits that have been proven since to really be substantive in their strategic differentiation.'


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