Dell: Widespread software defined networks "3-to-5" years away

Other trends more pressing, but software defined networking will win the day

Hardware giant Dell has watered down some of the industry hype surrounding software defined networking (SDN), claiming the technology will take longer than some think to take-off.

Speaking to IT Pro, Paul Larson, Dell's head of enterprise marketing for Western Europe, said SDN is inspiring a lot of 'buzz' within the networking professionals community at the moment, but not a lot of action.

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"When it comes to SDN, there is a lot of talk, but not so much implementation. This is because customers are seeing it as a longer term solution; they are telling us they really want to have a totally software defined network in three to five years, not immediately," he said.

"So while it is not something we will see an immediate uptake in, it will definitely be more important further down the road."

SDN involves taking much of what Larson describes as the "intelligence" in switches out and putting it either in a server or hypervisor.

"The birth of it is from a lot of university researchers trying to find ways to make a network less expensive and easier to manage. If you have a network switch in front of you, it has a lot of intelligence inside it its own processors, its own memory, and so on which makes them pretty expensive," he explained.

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"The premise with SDN is that you can now acquire switches at a lower cost as they have lower intelligence and, as you have all the intelligence on a single server or hypervisor, you can now more easily manage it from a single location. This in turn makes overall management of the network much easier," he added.

However, while SDN is generating the most excitement, Larson said it's not the technology that will receive the greatest uptake in the short to medium term.

"The most immediate trend is converged infrastructure, which collapses hardware, bringing multiple IT layers into one solution," said Larson. "Converged infrastructure lowers operational costs, which is attractive to customers as that is the thing they are most worried about today."

Second to converged infrastructure is converged fabric, Larson claimed, which allows servers housed in the same chassis to talk to each other using Ethernet technology, without having to go through a switch.

"This is definitely something that is happening right now, but there is more of a project-by-project approach being taken, so it is quite slow," he concluded.

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