Free SDN App Targets Network’s Latest Roadblock: Complexity

Complexity, not bandwidth, is the biggest challenge in networking, and while Tapestry is NOT the answer, according to co-creator Stu Bailey, CTO and founder of Infoblox, the free SDN-based tool is intended to at least start the thinking about what will be the answer. “This is really a conversation starter. If complexity is the barrier, can we quantify complexity in a way that is in line with the way organisations want to go forward.”

We have been focusing on yesterday’s problems and solutions, not today’s, he said. “We’re at a unique time in the history of the networking industry where complexity is increasingly the barrier, rather than bandwidth.”

The developer of automated network control solutions, Infoblox, together with Bailey’s long-time research collaborator, University of Chicago Professor Robert Grossman, have created a formula for complexity that accounts for the number of endpoints on a network and how they interact to perform business functions. To be available as a free download in October from FlowForwarding.Org project, Tapestry is an equation-based tool that generates a Network Complexity Index (NCI) number based on endpoint interaction data from network-wide control systems such as the Domain Name System (DNS). By monitoring changes in the NCI over time, organizations can better understand their network’s complexity growth curve and help guide strategic spending on solutions that allow an organization to cope with increasing network complexity.

Bailey said the IT industry has already seen these kinds of paradigm shift in compute, and now they’re happening in networking. However, instead of continuing to focus on the tangle of wires and boxes, the industry needs to turn its attention to the relationship of business processes to an increasingly large, dynamic, and shared global IT infrastructure, he said. “The rapid change in network technology — including virtualization, cloud, big data and machine-to-machine communications — make it essential to look at a bigger picture,” said.

“We’re not coming forth with a solution here. This is about collecting data…. in a meaningful way”.

Tapestry will run on a free and open source SDN control plane from called Loom, and will be compatible with multiple SDN white boxes, some of which may be available for as little as $300, said Infoblox. The software is also intended to help IT organizations evaluate the potential benefits and get hands-on experience in moving from hardware-defined networking (HDN) to SDN.

At the heart of the Bailey-Grossman equation is a new definition for networks: a collection of things that interact to perform a service. This expands networking beyond switches, routers and load balancers to a collection of endpoints – the people, data, devices and infrastructure – that all interact in order to make things happen, he said.

While complexity may or may not be the biggest barrier to networking, much like Big Data, networking is struggling with the three Big Vs: volume, variety and velocity. Data traffic continues to soar, the types of data, as well as increasing devices and demands, and higher speeds are all combining to bring networks to their knees.

Earlier this year Gartner raised its 2013 forecast for IT spending by a $100 billion to $3.8 trillion. However, with network traffic soaring – 400% for global datacenter traffic and 600% for cloud traffic by 2016 – and 45% of networks expected to be obsolete by then, an extra tenth of a trillion here and there just won’t cut it.

The bottom line, said Bailey, is that measuring and managing complexity has the potential to help businesses run highly scalable, adaptable, automated, software-defined networks. “The conversation needs to move in that direction.”



Author: Steve Wexler

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