Software-defined networking has its proponents, but some of them aren’t financial analysts. A few think SDN – which offers the ability to control networks with software running on commodity servers and switches – will take a slice off the revenues of leading network vendors.
Even so there were raised eyebrows last week when JP Morgan downgraded the stock of Cisco Systems Inc. in part on the potential impact of SDN on its bottom line. In a note to investors carried by Barron’s, analyst Rod Hall said that “bare metal clearly trumps Cisco on price.” Cisco’s service and licence fees also significantly increase the price of its hardware, he added.
But an industry enterprise network analyst shrugged it off as narrow thinking.
“Software defined networking will change the way we do networking,” insists Forrester Research’s Andre Kindness, “but we’re a good five to 10 years out on maturing on this. All of this is focused on a data centre and VMs (virtual machines) moving around, but that part of the network is only a part of routing and switching. There’s campus, there’s WAN, there’s branch office, there’s wireless – Cisco sells to all that.
“The other thing is the explosion of networking gear is going to happen at the edge, where Cisco is talking about the Internet of Things. Thing about HVAC systems, lights, processing plants with and PLCs temp gauges – everything in the work around us connecting to a network you’re going to need a switch.
“The financial analyst guys are missing the bigger picture. There’s going to be an explosion of networking equipment and Cisco clearly sees that. That’s why Google bought Nest,” which makes network aware home sensors like thermostats.
For example, he said a company recently built a chemical processing plant in India that has 60,000 sensors that link to its network. That would need devices with 60,000 ports.
White box switches and servers will be used in some places in the network and by some organizations, he acknowledged — Google, for example, makes its own switches — and vendors like Hewlett-Packard OEM switches made by others. But the key is creating a sophisticated network, Kindness argued, which a company like Cisco can offer .