Daylight – Internet Explorer or Linux of the SDN World?

You’ve probably heard that the networking hardware vendors decided to pool resources to create an open-source OpenFlow controller. Just in case you’re wondering whether they lost their mind (no, they didn’t), here’s my cynical take.

Are you old enough to remember how Microsoft killed the browser market? After the World Wide Web exploded (and caught Microsoft totally unprepared), there was a blooming browser market (with Netscape being the absolute market leader). Microsoft couldn’t compete in that market with an immature product (Internet Explorer) and decided it’s best to destroy the market. They made Internet Explorer freely available and the rest is history – after the free product won the browser wars (it’s hard to beat free and good enough) it took years for reasonable alternatives to emerge. Not surprisingly, browser innovation almost stopped until Internet Explorer lost its dominant market position.

Even if you don’t remember Netscape Navigator, you’ve probably heard of Linux. Have you ever wondered how you could get a high-quality open-source operating system for free? Check the list of top Linux contributors (page 9-11 of the Linux Kernel Development report) – Red Hat, Intel, Novell and IBM. You might wonder why Intel and IBM invest in Linux. It’s simple: the less users have to pay for the operating systems, the more money will be left to buy hardware. For more details, you absolutely have to read Be Wary of Geeks Bearing Gifts by Simon Wardley.

So what will Daylight be? Another Internet Explorer (killing the OpenFlow controller market, Big Switch in particular) or another Linux (a good product ensuring OpenFlow believers continue spending money on hardware, not software)? I'm hoping we'll get a robust networking Linux, but your guess is as good as mine.

5 comments:

  1. cynical certainly but probably very accurate.

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  2. Wait, I thought this blog had established that OpenFlow is part of a recurring series of microflow failures (like IntServ). What is this interest on OpenFlow about?

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    1. You must have read only some of my blog posts ;) OpenFlow can be used or abused like any other technology. NEC uses is wisely, so does Nicira.

      Floodlight (in its vanilla incarnation) is awful, some other ideas (load balancing with per-flow forwarding in Internet) are simply bizarre.

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  3. It always amazes me what can be found on Wikipedia. Netscape still got acquired for $4.2B (by AOL, ha). Not too shabby.

    Why do you have to be a cynic - can't we think, history WON'T repeat itself? :)

    Thanks for sharing the Simon Wardley article. Enjoyed that one.

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  4. Very informative post as always, Ivan. This blog is almost like a home page to me...

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Ivan Pepelnjak, CCIE#1354, is the chief technology advisor for NIL Data Communications. He has been designing and implementing large-scale data communications networks as well as teaching and writing books about advanced technologies since 1990. See his full profile, contact him or follow @ioshints on Twitter.