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CIO Review >> Magazine >> April - 2013 issue

The Rise of Network Virtualization Signals the End of "Shadow IT "


Headquartered in San Fransisco, Midokura provides network infrastructure for companies worldwide through network virtualization. Founded in 2010, the company has raised a total funding of $1.3 million from Bit-Isle, NTT-IP and 1st Holdings.

Change is coming to the way enterprise IT departments deliver IT services. Infrastructure as a Service clouds, both public and private, are the catalyst. For several years, "shadow IT" has been slowly invading the enterprise. Now the enterprise IT departments have finally woken up and want to take back their users. They can do it, but only if they adopt a much more efficient model with fast self-service provisioning. This will require a change in mindset as well as organizational change. Virtual networking for IaaS clouds, a type of SDN, is a powerful tool which enables the easy migration of complex multi-server workloads to the cloud. Hybrid clouds are also made more powerful and flexible by network virtualization, enabling use cases such as Disaster Recovery. There are multiple approaches to network virtualization, but we believe that the approach based on IP overlays combined with a distributed control plane will be the winner.

Software will continue to take over from proprietary hardware, faster and faster. For example, NVF (network function virtualization) is essentially a movement to replace vendor hardware appliances with software appliances running on commodity hardware servers and networks. The emergence of commodity CPUs with many cores is making high rate soft switching viable. The first generation of virtual networking technology sought to overcome the limitations of VLANs in the context of very dynamic IaaS clouds. However, once some network function is virtualized, then the pressure is on for all network functions to be virtualized. Once we have L2 virtual networks, we will want virtual L3 VRFs, and virtual L4-L7 services. The customers want complete solutions, not to stitch together bits and pieces themselves. Partnerships between vendors providing different pieces of the stack (for instance: virtual network overlay, virtual WAF, virtual ADC/SLB) are important. In other words, it is not acceptable to take an existing software appliance and brand it with "SDN". Every product must be rethought in the context of virtual networking, to be made elastic and programmable.

SDN represents a Great Opportunity

There is too much uncertainty and fear in the market and it may hinder adoption in the near term. SDN represents a great opportunity to simplify, streamline, and make networks more efficient. At the same time, the lack of knowledge about the details of the vendors' various approaches is confusing prospective customers and leading to the default decision of not adopting anything hence education is very important at this stage. The lack of NorthBound API standards, even de facto, is another problem for adoption. Finally, given the existential threat that SDN poses to legacy networking vendors, they are now confusing the market with their half hearted approaches to SDN, which serve to protect their existing product lines. Customers should not be lured by the siren’s song; do your homework and pick the most future proof solution. Startups must be strong and stick to their visions and get validation directly from customers.