Author Archives: Steve

The White Box SDN Twitter 45

With SDN and white box news flying fast and furious through the Internet, it can be hard to keep up with really great articles. Twitter is a great place to monitor breaking White Box and SDN news, but where do you start? This blog presents a list of 45 top White Box SDN Twitter handles you should follow to keep up. The following Tweeters have their fingers on the pulse of White Boxes and SDN. See the list below or follow the whole group at Pica8’s SDN 45.

  1. @bigswitch – Big Switch Networks
  2. @BradCasemore – Brad Casemore
  3. @capveg – Rob Sherwood
  4. @CIMICorp – Tom Nolle
  5. @Cloud_SDN – Cloud SDN
  6. @colin_dixon – Colin Dixon
  7. @craigmatsumoto – Craig Matsumoto
  8. @CumulusNetworks – Cumulus Networks
  9. @DanPittPaloAlto – Dan Pitt
  10. @e_hanselman – Eric Hanselman
  11. @ecbanks – Ethan Banks
  12. @etherealmind – Greg Ferro
  14. @ioshints – Ivan Pepelnjak
  15. @IPv6Freely – Chris Jones
  16. @jonisick – Joe Onisick
  17. @JRCumulus – JR Rivers
  18. @martin_casado – Martim Casado
  19. @mbushong – Michael Bushong
  20. @mitchwagner – Mitch Wagner
  21. @NetworkedAlex – Alex Walker
  22. @NickLippis – Nick Lippis
  23. @ONLab_ONOS – Open Networking Lab
  24. @ONUG_ – Open Networking User Group
  25. @OpenDaylightSDN – Open Daylight Project
  26. @openflow – Open Networking Foundation
  27. @OpenSourceSDN – Continue reading

White Box Acronym Soup

The LightReading blog, Open Networking Acronym Soup, covers all the interest groups, communities and standards bodies that are driving this idea of Open Networking, which in itself is a grab bag of topics around SDN, NFV and of course white box/bare metal switches. A recent blog post struck a chord with me at first because the author, Marc Cohn, is a good guy and a friend.

But secondly, and more importantly to everyone else, is to point out his astute observation that “we” (people, users and vendors) try to simplify stuff by using acronyms. I agree. In my past job at Infoblox, people always wanted to know what DDI meant, I would reply in my standard excited way “DNS, DHCP and IPAM’’ and most would agree that DDI was easier to say. So let’s take a look at the acronym soup and examine several key factors that you should know about white boxes. And I will lay them out here and try to keep it simple and break the list into two sections, what you should know now, and what you need to keep an eye on…for now.

OCP – Open Compute Project – This is an organization driven Continue reading

The History of Open

Everybody is talking about “open” this or that – from Cisco making claims to new companies embracing open source code as a means of developing or accelerating their go-to-market strategies. But what does “open” really mean?

One challenge in using a broad and you might say amorphous term like open is that it can lead to confusion or a negative first impression that “this is just marketing.” To get some perspective, let’s look back a bit and see how we got to this point of open and what the original intent was.

Open systems are computer systems that provide some combination of interoperability, portability, and open software standards. (“Open” can also refer to specific installations that are configured to allow unrestricted access by people and/or other computers; this article does not discuss that meaning.)

The term “open” was popularized in the early 1980s, mainly to describe systems based on Unix, especially in contrast to the more entrenched mainframes, minicomputers, and engineering workstations in use at that time. Unlike older legacy systems, the newer generation of Unix systems featured standardized programming interfaces and peripheral interconnects. Third party development of hardware and software was Continue reading

Where to Start with SDN

For the 3rd installment on my three part SDN series, building on A Business Case for SDN, and the SDN Ecosystem,  the most practical way to start exploring an SDN deployment is with a proof of concept (POC). But even if you have the approval to go ahead with an SDN POC, it can be difficult to know where to start. Let’s cut through the uncertainty and lay out what it takes to do a successful SDN POC.

Identify a pain point

Start by identifying a key pain point in networking that you’d like to address with SDN. For example, you might want to improve campus security, or improve the performance of collaborative tools, or streamline your data center. Specific tasks in these areas include adding a network tap, increasing the speed of a LAN link, or reassigning VLANs.

We’ll assume you have surveyed business unit leaders, ranked overall IT strategies and come back with one SDN application to start your evolution. Similar to a cloud or BYOD initiative, giving visibility for SDN can help you bring the company together, and can also build support for improving how IT can drive the business. If you understand the Continue reading

The SDN Ecosystem

As a follow on to my blog about building a business case for an SDN deployment, there are now dozens of companies offering SDN-related products – so many that you might find it difficult to separate the hype from the meat. Let’s look at some categories of SDN products and how each of them fits into an overall SDN solution.

The key components of an SDN solution are ASICs, switches, a controller, and the applications or services that run over the network.


ASICs have a long history in networking by driving scale and performance. In a clock cycle, very complex tasks can be accomplished. Without the ASIC, the central CPU would be overwhelmed performing those same tasks (remember those so called “one arm routers”). The need for ASICs created a new set of suppliers such as Broadcom, Marvell and Mellanox, and most recently Intel through its acquisition of Fulcrum. We can expect more and more specialization in ASICs as the industry pivots on the SDN theme. Over the last decade, the merchant silicon vendors have diversified and specialized products for vertical markets. For example, an ASIC optimized for the data center might have VxLAN support, while another tuned Continue reading