The Disaggregated Network Operating System
Success with disaggregation, white box switches and SDN all depend on being able to get the software you need to run on the hardware you want to buy.
The world of open source and small vendors, however, is scary, especially when you’re used to a unified appliance model grounded in a large vendor ecosystem. Russ White, network architect and author at LinkedIn, has plenty of knowledge to share in this area.
During this Software Defined Enterprise Conference & Expo (SDxE) (tmt.knect365.com/sdxe/) breakout session titled “The Disaggregated Network Operating System,” White will look at the disaggregation ecosystem, providing engineers with an overview of the architectures and products, open source and commercial, that are available to actually run white box switches today.
In a Q&A with SDxE, White gives a sneak peek of the information he plans to share with attendants. He also will be moderating a panel discussion titled “Cloud Means No More Appliances. Or Does It?”
SDxE: There’s no question that the role of enterprise IT has changed – thanks to the cloud, the revitalization of open source, mobility (and shadow IT) and more. How do you see the industry continuing to evolve?
White: I think the networking world is going to split (generally) into three pieces: administration of vertically integrated, vendor-driven systems; cloud-based IT; and the disaggregated world. I tend to think the appliance-based model of network engineering will die over the next five to 10 years, which means that network operators will either move to a disaggregated model or a more fully integrated vendor-driven model. Network providers, the traditional transit provider space, and the small to mid-scale “enterprise” operators, will be the markets most likely to stick with an appliance-based model for the longest, but the appliance-based model will erode in these areas, as well, over time.
It is hard to tell if the cycle will swing back after the market moves to a more diverse base; the networking industry does tend to move in hype cycles. But if so, it will be the “next” cycle, rather than what is happening right now.
SDxE: What do you think is the biggest barrier organizations face with digital transformation – technology or culture? Why?
White: Culture, definitely. We are not yet at the point where business leaders have truly learned the value of the network, nor at the point where engineers have learned how to sell the value of the network to the business. The network is seen as a commodity, in which case the most logical path forward is to simply subsume the network into some sort of outsourced solution, whether driven by the cloud, or by a vendor. Companies that move past this, integrating technology into their business model, will have a strong advantage in the marketplace. But this is a culture issue, rather than a technology issue.
SDxE: In your presentation, you’re going to discuss “The Disaggregated Network Operating System.” Without too many spoilers, can you give us an overview?
White: The business is tied to the architecture of the network, and the architecture of the network is tied to the network software. Today, however, we buy the software and the hardware as one “thing” -- the appliance model. In a disaggregated world, the software is tied to business, and the hardware is tied to performance and features. Disaggregation is a radically new way to build networks that is related to SDN and white box, without being the same thing.
SDxE: What technologies/developments have you most excited and looking forward to using in 2017 and beyond?
White: Disaggregation is the big thing I think is interesting right now. Of course, there are many developments in the data center fabric world worth watching right now, as well as in the security realm, but they are all, ultimately, enabled by disaggregation.
SDxE: What do you hope attendees learn and take away from your sessions and the overall conference?
White: That they have hard choices to make on the career front in the coming years, because the network engineering world is changing. On the other hand, there are ways forward, if you are thoughtful about where you would like to be in five years. One of those choices is to learn to be an engineer who can engage with a wider array of the IT world.
Edward Gately is a contributing editor for SDxE and Channel Partners Online. Follow him on Twitter at @EdwardGately