If you haven’t caught wind of it yet, you’re sure to in 2013. Software defined networking (SDN) seems to be all the rage for the upcoming year, and quite possibly for many years to come. (SDN) is changing the way data centers run, and OEMs are racing to get a piece of the predicted $2 billion a year (by 2016) pie. The question is will everyone get an equal share of the pie, or will there be a few greedy pie hogs and only a crumb or two left for the rest. It’s too early to tell, but one thing’s for certain money is flying around the network world like a massive hurricane picking up any SDN startup that looks promising.
VMware spent a whopping $1.26 billion on Nicira, a pioneer in the software defined network field, and rocket launched SDN as the biggest buzzword to hit the networking world. Quickly trying to ride on VMware’s coattails, Oracle bought Xsigo for an undisclosed price and marketed it as a SDN move. Brocade bought Vyatta in its attempt to wiggle into the SDN realm, and while they haven’t disclosed how much they spent on Vyatta, we do know according to CrunchBase.com Vyatta has raised $40.7 million in venture capital over the years to fund their operation. Cisco bought Cariden for $141 million and while it’s chump change compared to VMware it gets their feet wet and headed toward SDN. The final player of the year was Juniper who is buying Contrail for $176 million and might just be the most promising SDN player of all.
The SDN concept has been around for several years now, but never really caught much attention until VMware acquired Nicira, who is definitely the front-runner in SDN right now. Contail seems to be close on their heals and is the player to watch in 2013. Contrail Systems is a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company that has raised $10 million in Series A funding from Khosla Ventures and Juniper. The start-up is headed up by Ankur Singla, Pedro Marques, and Harshad Nakil who have worked for other big names like Cisco, Google and even Juniper themselves.
Contrail has big plans for SDN. “I think there has been very little innovation in large systems and software defined data centers,” said Vinod Khosla, who led the investment in the company. Contrail is going to attack ”the cost/performance standards typical of traditional vendors” he added. Contrail is building a federated and standards-based virtualized network control solution that is OpenStack enabled, which is likely to come to market in 2013. Singla Contrail’s CEO, says that their approach is different from its competitors because it is both more distributed and can interoperate with a greater variety of equipment because it uses both BGP and XMPP protocols. Singla is of the opinion that large enterprises such as big financial institutions and energy companies will need their own web-scale cloud in order to run data-heavy custom applications. “The future is having any app or any workload run anywhere in the data center and that means that the network has to be very fungible,” said Singla.
In other words, Contrail wants a network that is both virtualized and programmable. While it may not be as easy as it sounds, if they can get others to jump on the bandwagon, it’s definitely possible. And for consumers it means the ability to increase flexibility while cutting networking costs in the data center.
Bob Muglia, Executive Vice President of Juniper's Software Solutions division said of the acquisition, "… Juniper gains SDN technology that augments our portfolio of products and services. As a strategic investor earlier this year, we recognized the inherent advantages of Contrail Systems’ architectural approach and we are excited to take this next step to acquire and combine Contrail Systems into our team."
Software defined networking is sure to be a crowded field as everyone hunts for their piece of the pie. Look for Software Defined Networking to be the hottest topic in data center networking for 2013. You can expect vendors to continue racing to either build their own SDN technology or acquire it. The big players are not going to be left behind and huge budgets are likely to be thrown at the technology. Only time will tell who will take the biggest chunk of pie.