Networks are changing. What was once limited to hardware specialists at a handful of vendors is now becoming accessible to the rest of us. And by “us” I mean system builders, software developers, and infrastructure operators.

I’ll explain by contrast. Until very recently, networking has followed a hardware-centric design and supply model. The vendor who supplies the gear also builds the ASIC(s), designs the board(s) and the packaging, writes the software, and exposes a proprietary control interface. Closed, vertically integrated, and slow to change, that was networking (and largely still is).

Over the last few years, however, I’ve been involved in multiple efforts in which non-vendors have built their own systems. The model varies. Some build their own switches through direct relationship with contract manufacturers, some shortcut the vendors by buying whiteboxes directly from the ODM and write their own switch software, and others use traditional networking equipment but pull functionality into soft switches at the network edge. The point is, they’re doing it themselves, and building networks far cheaper, far more innovative, and generally for more awesome than are available from the vendors.

Why are they doing this? Because modern deployment environments demand better networks: the scale of big data, the dynamics of compute virtualization, rapid provisioning requirements for IT, the cost model of cloud computing, and the list goes on.

The broader implications of this trend are still in question. However, history has shown that when there is a paradigm shift in the industry, the leaders of the old model rarely retain their positions.

What is certain, is that going forward, vendors and users alike will have to build networks differently. Very differently.

And that is what this blog is about. It’s about programmable networks. It’s about soft switching and network virtualization. It’s about SDN/OpenFlow, and the trend towards merchant silicon. It’s about building networks as distributed systems. But mostly, it’s about the overdue demise of the vertically integrated network model.

One Comment on “About”

  1. Victor Reijs says:

    Hello Bruce,
    I read about your Network Virtualisation and I was wondering if you heard about Network as a Services: NaaS (from the MANTICORE and Mantychore projects). It is an idea from the early 2000s and is a continuation of the UCLP (User Controlled Light Path) of CANARIE. But beside virtualising&abstracting the optical/ethernet layer, Mantychore project works on the IP layer and thus providing virtual networks for layer 1 to 3.
    The aim is to provide operational services (in for instance HEAnet, an NREN for Ireland) where we can allow users to generate on the fly IP networks (if wanted connected to the public Internet) or to remove the Client Premises Equipment Router (by using a virtual CPE in the core). Combination with NFV (Network Function Virtualisation) concept is of course possible.

    We want to see the NaaS in the same way as SaaS, IaaS, PaaS XaaS.
    I also work on MaaS (Management as a Service) as part of GN3 project.

    Let me know if this in some way maps your ideas of Network Virtualisation (I think it really does).

    We have had several presentations from the early 2000s:
    https://tnc2012.terena.org/core/event/22 (demo of IP (NaaS)and Ethernet layer (BoD) provisioning at an international scale).
    https://tnc2012.terena.org/core/presentation/146 (incorporating green energy parameters into the decisions of IaaS and NaaS).
    http://www.terena.org/activities/netarch/ws1/slides/reijs-NaaS-221112-NAW.pdf vCPE and MaaS)
    Planned demos are at RIPE in Dublin and TNC2013 in Maastricht.

    Let me know if you are interested.

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