Interop puts software-defined networking in limelight

Along with cloud, BYOD and security technology, SDN is expected to be major focus of Interop Las Vegas show

The potential game-changing technology that surrounds software-defined networking (SDN) will be center stage at Interop next week with high-profile product introductions, technology demos and information sessions all set to roll.

While mobility, cloud computing, security and business collaboration tools are expected to be introduced at the show in Las Vegas, which will see an estimated 13,000 attendees and 350 exhibitors, SDN will be showcased as multiple participants. Data center switch vendor Arista Networks, for example, will demonstrate how to build a software-defined cloud network using its switches and controllers from partners VMware, Big Switch and Nebula.

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IBM will demo a high-performance SDN using OpenFlow, which is a protocol and API that enables SDN. IBM will also be part of the Interop OpenFlow Lab which will include Broadcom, Brocade, Extreme, HP, NEC and others showing off the SDN technology.

Hailed by proponents as the biggest transformation of networking in decades, SDN promises to make the physical infrastructure irrelevant to the actual behavior of the traffic by enabling software programmability of flows and additional features.

Another big player to watch in the evolving SDN market is Cisco, whose hardware and software is omnipresent in enterprise, data center and service provider networks. Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior kicks off Tuesday morning's Expo with a keynote address, and while her speech is slated to discuss three macro industry trends -- mobility, cloud and video -- Cisco has been working in recent months on its programmability strategy, as it calls its response to SDN.

At the company's recent business partner conference in April, Cisco CEO John Chambers confirmed that the company is funding and plans to absorb Insieme, a startup developing a software-defined networking (SDN) system. 

At the conference, Warrior told Network World, "Clearly we understand the implication of what is good about [SDN] and what are the things we need to improve," Warrior told Network World at the conference.

From that conference Network World's Jim Duffy wrote: "The single most visible aspect of Cisco's programmability strategy -- the company seems careful not to label it as an SDN initiative -- is Insieme, the Cisco-funded startup building what is believed to be a programmable switch line supporting OpenStack and distributed data storage. Cisco initially invested $100 million in Insieme, with the right to purchase the remaining interests of the company for up to $750 million."

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Interop also features a number of sessions focused on SDN, including a Monday afternoon workshop titled "How Will Software Defined Networks and OpenFlow Impact Enterprise Networks?" and on Wednesday at 2 p.m. the session "OpenFlow and Software Defined Networks: What Are They and Why Do You Care?" will be held. Also, cloud networking company Lyatiss will demonstrate CloudWeaver, which is a SDN-based offering that supports scalable connections to cloud applications.

Beyond SDN, another major area of discussion among the keynote speakers is expected to be the cloud. Speaking during Tuesday morning's keynote is Allan Leinwand, CTO for Infrastructure at Zynga, which during the past few years has migrated away from using market-leading public cloud provider Amazon Web Services and has instead built zCloud, which powers the online games the company makes. Leinwand says this hybrid approach of using on-site virtualized hardware for the base-level needs of an enterprise, and using a public cloud as a way to scale for unexpected spikes in IT needs, is the approach he believes will dominate into the future. Other keynotes on Tuesday include leading executives from Avaya, Dell and Google.

On Wednesday, Steve Herrod, CTO and SVP for R&D at VMware, will keynote the morning session, along with a panel discussion from leading cloud thinkers including John Engates, CTO of Rackspace, and Ellen Rubin, VP of cloud products for Terremark, a Verizon company. Mobile computing is set to be a hot topic throughout the show as 14 sessions during the three days of conferences are dedicated to the topic, which is the most of the nine conference tracks.

For the early birds getting to the show, Sunday and Monday, May 6 and 7, will feature two-day sessions on enterprise cloud computing and principles of effective IT management. Security is the second hottest topic at the show, while topics such as IPv6, social media in the enterprise and desktop virtualization are also on the docket.

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Meanwhile, organizers have spent the past few weeks putting the finishing touches on the event, including setting up the network that will power Internet connectivity at the show.

"Interop net is probably the world's largest temporary network," says Steve Shalita, vice president of marketing for NetScout, which is one of more than a dozen companies lending support for InteropNet, the engine that powers the high-speed network for exhibitors and conference attendees. CenturyLink, which is providing the bandwidth, uses dedicated data centers to supply Internet connectivity, which it then provides to the venue via private-line Ethernet, says CenturyLink Senior Product Manager Michael McAfee. "We have the data center services, we have 9GB of Internet connectivity out of those data centers," he says. Two-thirds of the bandwidth provided is IPv4 while the remainder is IPv6.

Network World staff writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social media. He can be reached at and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW. Jim Duffy and Jon Gold contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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