SDN thinking lags behind technology, VMware's Casado says

Most enterprises need help moving beyond traditional networks, the SDN pioneer said

The last legacy systems to make the shift to software-defined networking may be network engineers' minds, but even those are changing.

For many enterprises that want to move from traditional hardware-based networks to infrastructure that's defined by software, the most important thing is for the new architecture to look like the old, SDN pioneer Martin Casado said Wednesday at the Open Compute Project Summit in San Jose, California.

Casado, who co-founded Nicira Networks in 2007 and sold it to VMware in 2012, said he used to think hardware would be the toughest thing to change in enterprise networks. It turned out that mindsets and organizational structures are the biggest hurdles, he said.

"Probably the most inflexible things in industry are people's brains," Casado said during a panel discussion on opening up network hardware. SDN might ultimately allow companies to replace traditional switches and routers with open-source hardware, but the engineers and administrators who have been doing things the same way for years will need help to make the transition, he said.

"I do believe it is incumbent on us as a community to create solutions that look like the solutions used to look before," Casado said.

Casado's comments were aimed beyond large, technically ambitious companies such as Microsoft and Goldman Sachs, both of which have already started down the SDN path and were represented on Wednesday's panel. Those kinds of organizations have the engineering teams to blaze SDN trails themselves, but most don't, Casado said. "As you go downmarket, you're going to have to have more tools to help do this," he said.

NSX creates a so-called "overlay" network in software that runs in a hypervisor or in top-of-rack switches in a data center. It provides a virtual way for IT departments to make changes in the network, while the enterprise's physical network can remain in place, according to VMware.

SDN platforms from VMware and other vendors let enterprises move the control point for their networks from physical routers and switches with specialized interfaces to a separate software layer. This opens up networking to programming tools that are familiar to software developers, with the promise that it will become easier to make networks serve applications' needs.

But as SDN changes how networks are managed, both thinking and skill sets have to evolve, panelists said. Enterprises need both savvy developers and people who understand networks.

"The intersection of that is still too small today," said Dave Maltz, partner development manager at Microsoft. "We have a hard time finding people with those intersecting talent sets, but that pool is growing."

"You can often pair great developers with great network engineers," Maltz said.

"Historically, we were hiring a lot of pure network engineers," said Matthew Liste, managing director of core platform engineering at Goldman Sachs. "Now it's a blend of software developers and engineers, and gradually we're finding people who are great network engineers and also great software developers."

"That's a really exciting shift," Liste said. "But it's taking time."

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags careersIT managementMicrosoftbusiness issuesVMwareNetworkingpersonnelgoldman sachs

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Skywatcher Dobsonian 8″ Collapsible Telescope

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Whodunnit™ Duo-Scope MFL-007 Microscope Kit

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Logitech Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 2 Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?