Juniper: SDN Will Not Provide Real Cost Savings

Tom Brewster is TechWeek Europe's Security Correspondent. He has also been named BT Information Security Journalist of the Year in 2012 and 2013.

SDN is all about flexibility, not saving money, says Juniper’s Brad Brooks

Despite all the hype around software-defined networking (SDN), it won’t really provide any cost savings, according to Juniper Networks.

There has been much debate over the potential for SDN, especially surrounding cost savings. As SDN puts a virtualised layer across networking infrastructure, giving control over switches and routers to IT in a single console, it should bring greater efficiency.

It should also mean hardware spending will go down. SDN could allow “bare metal” commodity hardware, like the switch being developed by the Open Compute project, which can replace expensive branded hardware from network vendors. Moving network functions into software would mean that engineers did not have to tinker with hardware.

In fact, rather than cutting overall costs, spending will simply be shifted, according to Juniper’s vice president of worldwide enterprise marketing, Brad Brooks.

Network Switch © Dabarti CGI, Shutterstock 2012SDN – the new cloud

“It’s a lot like the cloud conversations that started a few years ago,” Brooks told TechWeekEurope. “I would actually harken it back to the early days of the cloud… where if you asked a CIO if their actual operating expense went down once they put all the stuff into place, they actually found they didn’t decrease.”

It’s the agility that customers really appreciate and it will be the same way with SDN, he claimed. “As this rolls out… it’s not necessarily going to be about significant people reduction or [cuts] in operational expenditure. Instead, it’s going to be about how fast the network can respond.”

But Brooks said instead of simplifying networking, SDN brings additional complexity with it too, at least for IT.

“It’ll simplify everything for the people who are using it and the people ordering up applications on it, but you’re still going to have to maintain that underlying physical network and then you’re going to have to maintain this new layer.

But Juniper still sees the birth of SDN as its time to shine, especially as the company is not the number one player in the segments of the market SDN looks set to disrupt most – namely routing and switches. Cisco remains the number one player in those areas, but that does not bode well for Juniper’s rival in the emerging world of SDN, according to Brooks.

“People keep forgetting, we have four percent market share in switches. When you compare that to the number one competitor, they have 70 percent. The second place guys [HP] have 20 percent,” he added.

“When the rules of the game change, the incumbent is the one that has to worry. The challenger is the one that has the opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Juniper is to announce another major partnership so it can challenge VMware in the more ambitious strategy of a software-defined data centre. It has already partnered with Citrix so customers can run its CloudStack and is committed to OpenStack, but now looks set to form another agreement with either Microsoft or IBM.

Aside from VMware, those two tech titans are only other major cloud orchestration players, said Brooks, a former Microsoft employee, who helped Juniper make headlines when he left the Windows team in 2011.

Not that SDN will be in wide usage for some time. Indeed, the wait could be as long as 10 years, he added.

Brooks’ views on SDN costs back up much of what IT professionals think, as highlighted in a recent webcast, hosted by TechWeek editor Peter Judge, where listeners voted for flexibility as the number one benefit of software defined data centres in a poll. Listen to it below:

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