In just a few months after the ONF launch, everyone was talking about OpenFlow and SDN, and Stephen Foskett, the mastermind behind GestaltIT, decided to organize the first ever OpenFlow symposium in September 2011.

The vendor and user presentations we’ve seen at that symposium, combined with the vendor presentations we’ve attended during the Networking Tech Field Day 2 seemed very promising – everyone was talking about the right topics and tried to address real-life scalability concerns.

Looking back at those days after more than a decade makes me sad – while we made a huge progress in many areas, we wasted an enormous amount of goodwill, enthusiasm and hard work on OpenFlow and OpenFlow controllers trying to solve the wrong problem.

Network Field Day 2 and OpenFlow Symposium

We finished a fantastic Network Field Day (second edition) yesterday. While it will take me a while (and 20+ blog posts) to recover from the information blast I received during the last two days, here are the first impressions:

Explosion of innovation – and it’s not just OpenFlow and/or SDN. Last year we’ve seen some great products and a few good ideas (earning me the “grumpy old man that’s hard to make smile” fame), this year almost every vendor had something that excited me.

If you were watching the video stream, you probably got sick and tired of my “wow, that’s cool” comments. I apologize, but that’s how I felt.

Everyone gets the problem… and some of the vendors were trying to tell us what the problem is in an CIO-level pitch. Not a good idea. However, it’s refreshing to see that everyone identified the same problem (large-scale data centers and VM mobility), that it’s the problem we’re all familiar with, and that it’s actually getting solved.

Most vendors have sensible answers. They are addressing different parts of the big problem, they talk about different technologies, but the answers aren’t bad. For example, every time I spotted a scalability issue, they were aware of it and/or had good answers (if not a solution).

Layer-2 is fading away (again). While every switching vendor will tell you how you can build large L2 domains with their fabric, nobody is actually pushing them anymore. And the only time layer-2 Data Center Interconnect (DCI) appeared on a slide, there was a unicorn image next to it. Even more, two vendors actually said they think long-distance VM mobility is not a good idea (you’ll have to watch the videos to figure out who they were).

We’re cutting through the hype. Even the OpenFlow symposium was hypeless. It’s so nice being able to spend three days with highly intelligent people who are excited about the next great thing (whatever it is), while being perfectly realistic about its current state and its limitations.

You’ll see lots of new things in the future. Even if you’re working in an SMB environment, you might get exposed to OpenFlow in the not-too-distant future (more about that in an upcoming post).

Get ready for a bumpy ride. Lots of exciting technologies are being developed. Some of them make perfect sense, some others less so. Some of them might work, some might fade away (not because they would be inherently bad, but because of bad execution). Now is the time to jump on those bandwagons – get involved (hint: you just might start with IPv6), build a test lab, kick the tires, figure out whether the new technologies might be a good fit for your environment when they become stable.

Full disclosure. I visited numerous vendors during the Network Field Day and met a few more during the OpenFlow symposium. My travel expenses were indirectly paid by those vendors and I received a few USB sticks and T-shirts from those vendors. Apart from that, I was not paid to write about them.

Thank you! Last but definitely not least, a huge thank you to Stephen Foskett and Matt Simmons for organizing the event and inviting me. You guys rock (but you know that ;).

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