“Openness” (for whatever value of “Open”) is another perceived benefit of SDN. In reality, you’re trading hardware vendor lock-in for controller vendor lock-in.

SDN, Windows and Fruity Alternatives

Brad Hedlund made a pretty valid comment to my “NEC Launched a Virtual OpenFlow Switch blog post: “On the other hand, it's NEC end-to-end or no dice”, implicating the ultimate vendor lock-in.

Of course he’s right and while, as Bob Plankers explains, you can never escape some lock-in (part 1, response from Greg Ferro, part 2 – all definitely worth reading), you do have to ask yourself “am I looking for Windows or Mac?

There are all sorts of arguments one hears from Mac fanboys (here’s a networking related one) but regardless of what you think of Mac and OSX, there’s the undisputable truth: compared to reloadful experience we get on most Windows-based boxes, Macs and OSX are rock solid; I have to reboot my Macbook every other blue moon. Even Windows is stable when running on a Macbook (apart from upgrade-induced reboots).

Before you start praising Steve Jobs and blaming Bill Gates and Microsoft at large, consider a simple fact: OSX runs on a tightly controlled hardware platform built with stability and reliability in mind. Windows has to run on every possible underperforming concoction a hardware vendor throws at you (example: my “high-end” laptop cannot record system audio because Lenovo wanted to save $0.02 on the sound chipset and chose the cheapest possible one), and has to deal with all sort of crap third-party device drivers loaded straight into the operating system kernel.

Now, what do you want to have in your mission-critical data center networking infrastructure: a Mac-like tightly controlled and vendor-tested mix of equipment and associated controller, or a Windows-like hodgepodge of boxes from numerous vendors, controlled by third-party software that might have never encountered the exact mix of the equipment you have.

If you’re young and brazen (like I was two decades ago), go ahead and be your own system integrator. If you’re too old and covered with vendor-inflicted scars, you might prefer a tested end-to-end solution regardless of what Gartner says (and even solutions that vendor X claims were tested don’t always work). Just don’t forget to consider the cost of downtime in your total-cost-of-ownership calculations.

Latest blog posts in What Is SDN? series


  1. I'm curious which channel partners are working with NEC on their networking solutions. Any readers know?
  2. Hi Jason, I was just about to forward you this article. -KG :-)
  3. Ivan, just a comment on "vendor sponsored report". It wasn't. Just cause HP cited it and bought the rights to reprint it for a certain time period (which any vendors or customers can do with any Gartner report, even all with the same report at the same time as is frequently done with MQs)--doesn't mean it was sponsored. There's no such thing at Gartner.

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