Giants of Networking Snap Up SDN Outfits

By Paula Bernier January 21, 2013

Software-defined network is considered by many to be one of the most important, and potentially disruptive, developments in networking since the rise of the Internet. To date, networks and connectivity have come first, and applications have followed. SDN turns this model on its head, approaching networking from an apps-first standpoint.

As usual, smaller suppliers have played a central role in moving this disruptive force forward. And there are plenty of SDN specialists out there. The list includes Big Switch Networks, Embrane, ConteXtream, PLUMgrid, Midokura, and Pica8, among others. Even Alcatel-Lucent has launched a business called Nuage to address the SDN opportunity.

But the number of little guys in the SDN space is getting smaller as some of the bigger names in networking snap up what have recently become much more important assets.

VMware Inc. in July cut a deal to buy Nicira Inc. for $1.26 billion. That same month, Oracle followed suit with its purchase of privately owned Xsigo. (Nicira products are already in use by AT&T, DreamHost, eBay, Fidelity Investments, NTT and Rackspace to accelerate service delivery.) Meanwhile, the Xsigo solution has been deployed at hundreds of enterprise customers including British Telecom, eBay, Softbank and Verizon.

Things picked up on the SDN acquisition front again in November, with Brocade revealing plans to acquire Vyatta, and Cisco announcing its intent to buy privately held Cariden Technologies, which reportedly has done some SDN work. (Brocade at the time of the deal noted that Vyatta is shipping products today and is developing a next-generation, on-demand network OS that delivers advanced routing, security and VPN functionality for physical, virtual and cloud networking environments. Cisco said Cariden’s IP/MPLS planning and traffic engineering software is in use by many major service providers.)

Then, in December, Juniper Networks quietly made its move to bring SDN startup Contrail Systems into the fold. A month later, Juniper publicly announced its software-defined networking strategy at a partner event.

“This transformation is one of the biggest things we will ever see,” said Bob Muglia, executive vice president of the software solutions division at Juniper Networks, referring to SDN.

Fellow network equipment supplier Cisco, meanwhile, seems to be downplaying the importance of SDN. Shashi Kiran, senior director of data center and cloud networking at Cisco, said that the concept of SDN is nothing new, but he did comment that the network recently has become far more central to the IT infrastructure than perhaps at any time in the past, and trends like SDN and open networking are just enforcing that fact.

“SDN put spotlight on the strategic nature of networks all over again,” said Kiran.

To learn more about SDN, join me at the Software Defined Networking pre-conference workshop on Tuesday, Jan. 29. The SDN event will be part of TMC's ITEXPO Miami 2013 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. For more information, or to register, visit: here.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

Executive Editor, TMC

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