Software-defined networking takes center stage as a top concern at Structure 2013

Summary:Still don't understand software-defined networking? You're not alone — but you should really learn about it now.

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GigaOm's annual Structure conference typically serves as a good barometer for where enterprise companies are when it comes to understanding shifts in technology.

Two years ago, it was about just accepting the move to the cloud. Last year, it was about how to actually deploy cloud computing models.

Now, software-defined networking is at the forefront.

See also: AMD exec at Structure 2013: The one-size-fits-all hardware era is over | Workday CEO on Oracle, Dropbox, and the CIO role at Structure 2013 | Structure 2013: Amazon CTO offers forecast for cloud market

Speaking at the UCSF Mission Bay Conference Center on Wednesday afternoon, Bob Muglia, executive vice president of the software solutions unit at Juniper Networks, went so far as to suggest that software-defined networking is the industry's biggest disruption since the dawn of the Internet.

But there is a big roadblock to the evolution of software-defined networking (SDN).

During the fireside chat, GigaOM Research analyst David Linthicum suggested that many people don't even understand what software-defined networking is.

Muglia responded the motivation to create the shift starts with deploying a private cloud within the enterprise.

To put it another way, Muglia quipped, "You can say we have to invest in the highway, but we have a few missing wheels."

In order to do that, all of the pieces of the infrastructure (compute, storage, and infrastructure) must be provisioned.

"The network has lagged behind," Muglia said, explaining that companies want agility from what they can get from a cloud, but the network is holding them back.

To put it another way, Muglia quipped, "You can say we have to invest in the highway, but we have a few missing wheels."

To successfully understand and then adopt SDN technologies, Muglia asserted it requires a shift to a more dynamic approach.

Traditionally, Muglia said, networks have been built on a device-by-device basis, largely managed by hand and configured independently.

Recalling his tenure at Microsoft, Muglia described that he referred to SDN as "application-driven networking." From his perspective as a systems vendor, Muglia admitted he knew the network wasn't responding to what the apps needed — so the network needed to change.

"That's the fundamental shift. Pulling the software out of the box and making it part of the cloud orchestration," Muglia said.

"That's the fundamental shift. Pulling the software out of the box and making it part of the cloud orchestration," Muglia said.

Much like how the term "cloud" is a replacement buzzword that emerged in the last few years, the industry now calls that software-defined networking.

At Juniper, Muglia asserted the network solutions provider is moving "like mad," working across the industry to educate people about what SDN is all about.

Part of that education includes the following tips:

  • Managing physical infrastructure: Muglia lamented that most enterprises are still looking at this on a "box-by-box basis," which doesn't scale — making it "troublesome." He argued companies need to move to a coherent management solution.
  • Choose your orchestration system: The translation is transition any virtualized infrastructure to a private cloud.

Muglia said that Juniper is also working to build key components of that infrastructure, including extensions to the OpenStack cloud environment, and establishing partnerships with companies that deliver broad enterprise solutions, such as VMware.

Topics: Data Centers, Big Data, Data Management, Enterprise 2.0, Networking

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

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