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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] I'm really happy with where Big Switch is from a products and a positioning standpoint because of that. I think the whole NVO market ... Big Switch actually historically, this is pre our pivot, had an NVO product. The joke is, there's an argument about how big that pie is. I am actually convinced it's not as big as people think it is. It's clear that there's going to be a lot more people trying to get a bigger slice of that pie. That's why I'm happy that Big Switch went to the physical fabric side.

[Art] If you look at VMware, what is their biggest strength? Their biggest strength is that everybody in enterprise and their dog has vCenter sitting in there waiting to be potentially upgraded. If you're VMware and you're thinking, "I want to sell private cloud technology to all these people that have this stuff." It's not really necessarily in their business interests, per se, to say "Hey, everybody, to buy my next piece of software all of you need to go out and buy an entirely new, and different type of physical network to go underneath." On the one hand, there's a lot of technologists who believe in NVO technology very passionately and I'm not slighting the technology at all but I do think there is something to be said that for certain vendors there definitely is a business interest there where using an overlay SDN versus using an SDN underlay could potentially conflate their motivations.

[Rob] Absolutely. Now at the same time, if you look our typical customer. They're actually, they've got five to ten new projects in the pipe that all require new hardware, like new switches. We're not doing rip and replace anymore, take your legacy stuff, leave it where it is. Our stuff will get slotted into the row next to it and because they've got a Hadoop project, an OpenStack project, maybe they're doing something with VDI or something like that. It's not so much a rip and replace, and honestly, that's just not a reality of modern data centers. Modern data centers the lifetime of years is probably five years. There's so many people who are expanding so quickly, throwing out all their gear that's 3+ or 5+ years old, depending on the company. I actually don't think that deploying new hardware is actually a significant problem. As long as there's interoperability, you can toggle from the old stack to the new stack, everything speaks IP, There's no problems there.

[Art] As open networking takes hold, it looks to me like innovation in servers, innovation in networking, these manufacturers are really wrapping their hands around them now. It's not just, I am a networking manufacturer. I am a server manufacturer. I tend to think if I buy a new server and network combination today to try and get my most efficient private cloud combination that I can; three or four years from now I'm probably just not going to upgrade the server. Due to the pace of that network innovation that's happening, we're doing a 100 gig and soon can do 400 gig and not to mention the other feature capabilities. I tend to think that we're going to see a lot more of this type of architecture where this year I'm going to deploy this private cloud and maybe a few years from now, or as we get into the next paradigm we'll do the same thing again. We'll stack up another new one. Do you see that as an architectural trend?


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