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Interop 2012: OpenFlow grows up, Google gets networks, Huawei debuts

News Director Shamus McGillicuddy previews what he'll be tracking at Interop 2012: Software-defined networking a year older and wiser, BYOD madness and Huawei blitzes America.

Interop 2012 starts Monday, and as always it'll be a whirlwind of a week. I never have enough time to attend every session and meet with every vendor on my wish list, but there are some trends that I'll be watching carefully as I wander around Mandalay Bay's convention center.

OpenFlow Year Two: Interop 2012

Last year OpenFlow exploded on the stage at Interop Las Vegas. This year the hype remains, but networking pros have had some time to look past the buzz and come to Interop with hard questions about whether the technology is scalable and production-ready and what problems it can solve today.

View all of our Interop 2012 conference coverage from Las Vegas.


Last year at Interop, OpenFlow was hardly known outside of academic circles, but it managed to dominate conversations everywhere at the show. The InteropNet environment hosted a virtual plugfest of OpenFlow-compliant technologies. Scrappy NEC made a big splash, winning Best of Interop with its ProgrammableFlow switches and controllers. Other vendors from up and down the networking market food-chain demonstrated OpenFlow on their own switches, though few of them were ready to offer OpenFlow-compatible products yet.

A year later, it has now become clear that OpenFlow is just one protocol among many software-defined networking options. And software-defined networks (SDNs) are simply part of an overall strategy that can establish true network virtualization beyond basic network programmability.

The SDN vendor landscape has broadened out since last year. Companies like IBM and HP have either introduced new OpenFlow Switches or started supporting OpenFlow on existing switches. Start-up Big Switch Networks has open-sourced its OpenFlow controller (Floodlight) in an effort to build a third-party community of developers to write software that takes advantage of the programmable nature of SDN.

And other companies are articulating a vision that goes beyond OpenFlow. Nicira Networks, which some of the inventors of OpenFlow founded, downplays the protocol's role in its own technology. It considers SDN just a small part of its network virtualization solution, which doesn't even require OpenFlow compatibility.

Meanwhile, Arista Networks, which arguably has been offering software-defined networking for a few years with its VMware integration, is expanding its ability to work within SDN environments. As Ed Chapman, Arista's vice president of business development and alliances, put it, Arista is adopting an "open controller" approach. At Interop 2012, Arista will showcase changes to its Extensible Operating System (EOS), including integration with both OpenFlow and OpenStack. At the show, you'll see Arista demonstrate integration with OpenStack Nova and with Big Switch's Floodlight controller. You'll also see Arista's ability to do VMware auto-provisioning with a VXLAN support and integration with a vCloud networking controller.

Interop will also offer its first session on the topic this year, "OpenFlow and Software-Defined Networks: What Are They and Why Do You Care?" It sounds like a very basic introduction to the technology, so anyone who didn't attend the recent Open Networking Summit should probably stop by. The panel will feature Rakesh Saha, IBM director of product management; Isabelle Guis, Big Switch's vice president of outbound marketing; and Matthew Davy, InCNTRE executive director and chief network architect at Indiana University.

Finally, the Big Kahuna (Cisco Systems) remains somewhat vague on its software-defined networking philosophy. I expect the company will continue to follow that tack for now. Look for some real details around what it's doing with SDN and programmable networks at Cisco Live, in San Diego in June.

Interop 2012: Huawei's coming-out party

Chinese networking giant Huawei has been slowly ramping up its enterprise networking business over the past twelve months, and it intends to make a huge play for the U.S. enterprise market this year. Interop will be a coming-out party of sorts for the company.

"We consider [Interop] to be our introduction to the North American customer base," said John Roese, senior vice president and general manager of North American research and development for Huawei.

If you have any doubts about Huawei's desire to start a major push into North America at Interop, just ask your favorite technology analyst. The company hosted 500 global analysts at its headquarters in Shenzhen, China, last week.

Roese declined to offer specifics on what Huawei will be announcing at Interop, but he offered a few hints. First, the company will announce a deal with a major North American distributor, which is essential to building out a sales channel.

Huawei will also unveil some enhanced telepresence technology and a heavy-duty data-center switching product based on its existing carrier-class core routing products. Roese demurred on the specific speeds and feeds, but he did say that Huawei's big iron switches will emphasize flexibility rather than embrace a specific architecture.

"We tend to focus on not forcing customers to make specific technology choices when it's not clear how the industry is going today," he said. "Some vendors pick one approach, like TRILL or Shortest Path Bridging. Others are trying to leapfrog all of that by committing to software-defined networking models, which are still quite immature. Huawei will include a broad set of capabilities. It will be a flexible, coherent product that will be interesting to the market, given that many enterprises are having to pick an architecture before those architectures are proven."

Interop 2012: Bring your own device (BYOD) is a network problem

BYOD is the popular acronym these days. But just like SaaS morphed into IaaS and PaaS (and someday, ZaaS), we're starting to see alternative versions of BYOD. Anyone care for some BYOA (bring your own application)? BYOD is more hyped than Joss Whedon's "Avengers," but I'm interested in the substance. While many vendors are focusing on device management and application management, underneath all of that BYOD remains very much a networking problem. Network managers need to worry about how mobile access affects security, bandwidth and network operations. Many vendors (including Cisco, Aruba Networks) will be showcasing products or unveiling new products aimed at making BYOD easier on the network manager. There will also be a session on May 10 on how BYOD affects wireless LAN, featuring HP Networking, Cisco, Brocade and Juniper.

Something's afoot with Google at Interop this year

In case you haven't noticed, Google wants to be an enterprise service provider. Google Enterprise Product Manager Jonathan Rochelle will be delivering a keynote on Tuesday afternoon. As far as I know, this is Google's first keynote at the show. On Thursday, Michael Wiley, Google's manager of network engineering, will join the panel "Making Mobility Work: Notes from the Field." Wiley will probably be talking about Google's internal network. By my count, Google will participate in three other sessions at Interop 2012: Two on unified communications and one about the future of the desktop.

Other sessions of note:  If I have time between meetings, I'll be attending "Alternatives to the Spanning Tree Protocol," "Unified Networking: Marketing Hype, or Core Trend?" and "What Does It Take to Support the Creation and Migration of VMs?”

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Director

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