Most enterprise IT organizations upgrade their Ethernet switches anywhere from every three to five years. Given that context, any significant architectural change, such as the emerging OpenFlow standard, is going to take a while to find mainstream adoption.
Nevertheless, Hewlett-Packard already has 40 OpenFlow compatible switches in its FlexNetwork portfolio. The case for OpenFlow, says Kash Shaikh, senior director for product and technical marketing for HP Networking, is not so much what IT organizations can accomplish using it today; it’s the fact that whatever switches they deploy today are still going to be in use once OpenFlow matures over the next year or so.
Shaikh says it’s worth investing in OpenFlow today because it will soon emerge as a foundational technology for open software-defined networks. IT organizations are looking to automate data center operations, and Shaikh says support for OpenFlow will prove critical as organizations look to manage processes across multiple heterogeneous data center environments that are all hosting a variety of cloud applications.
Of course, a key element of that strategy is OpenStack, the emerging standard framework for managing cloud environments. HP argues that OpenFlow and OpenStack are essentially joined at the hip, while other vendors such as Cisco and Enterasys are making the case for taking greater advantage of SDN functionality today using proprietary architecture that offers more functionality than what’s available in OpenFlow today.
Just about everybody these days agrees that data centers are in the process of being transformed into highly programmable environments. What no one seems to be able to agree on is how long that transformation might take.