Most of the focus of software-defined networks (SDNs) has been on how it impacts the layer 2/3 switch vendors. The industry seems to have moved off of this notion that it commoditizes the underlying infrastructure, but recently another question has come up. Big Switch recently launched the company and related products, one of which is called “Big Tap,” that provide traffic visibility functionality similar to what one might get from vendors such as Gigamon and VSS. This has raised a question: are SDNs a death knell to the traffic visibility vendors?
I looked at this and then talked to a number of customers, including Big Switch, and I believe the information that one can get out of an SDN-led product to be very much complementary to the traffic visibility market, not competitive. Think of “Big Tap” as being traffic visibility light where they provide a very basic level of information. The level of information that one gets from the dedicated vendors is much richer and more granular than what one would get from Big Tap.
Gigamon’s recent news and definition of the “Engaged Fabric” highlights the higher-value functions of a dedicated solution to provide extended features such as the following:
In fact, customers should look at solutions like Engaged Fabric as a way of being the “enabler” network evolution as it can enable legacy tools that only understand the physical world to bridge to a virtual, software-defined world. A traffic visibility fabric can provide a higher-level abstraction layer to allow network owners to move to an SDN without losing visibility, management and control.
One of my concerns with SDNs has been that the radically new approach to networking can create a number of blind spots that legacy tools just can’t see. This is similar to the problem server managers faced in the early days of server virtualization. Eventually, the tools were developed to help manage large-scale virtual environments. However, because of the criticality of the network, I don’t believe the industry can go through this kind of “blindness” when it comes to SDNs and network virtualization.
I strongly recommend deploying organizations look at something like Big Tap, but to be sure to complement it with a solution like Gigamon’s to remove those nasty blind spots.
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to the following constituents: End user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers.
Kerravala does research through a mix of end user and channel interviews, surveys of IT buyers, investor interviews as well as briefings from the IT vendor community. This gives Kerravala a 360 degree view of the technologies he covers from buyers of technology, investors, resellers and manufacturers.
Kerravala uses the traditional on line and email distribution channel for the research but heavily augments opinion and insight through social media including LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Blogs. Kerravala is also heavily quoted in business press and the technology press and is a regular speaker at events such as Interop and Enterprise Connect.
Prior to ZK Research, Zeus Kerravala spent 10 years as an analyst at Yankee Group. He joined Yankee Group in March of 2001 as a Director and left Yankee Group as a Senior Vice President and Distinguished Research Fellow, the firms most senior research analyst. Before Yankee Group, Kerravala had a number of technical roles including a senior technical position at Greenwich Technology Partners (GTP) where he worked with Johna Til Johnson, the founder of Nemertes Research. Prior to GTP, Kerravala had numerous internal IT positions including VP of IT and Deputy CIO of Ferris, Baker Watts and Senior Project Manager at Alex. Brown and Sons, Incorporated.
Kerravala holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics and Mathematics from the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.