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SDN in Flight.

Oct 31, 2013

A look at SDN from 40,000 feet. 

Two weeks ago I was on my way to the SDN & OpenFlow® World Congress in Bad Homburg, Germany. My routing took me through London on British Airways, and en-route I was flipping through the British Airways inflight magazine called High Life. Reading this usually makes me feel like I'm already in another country, and I enjoy looking at the route maps, reading about new destinations, and fantasizing about future trips I will never take. I tend to skip the ads. This issue, however, was different.


Facing me was a full-page ad shouting "Seamless Cloud for the World." How odd, I thought, to be advertising cloud computing to what is usually an airplane full of holidaymakers.

Then I noticed that the ad was from NTT Communications, one of our Board member companies. I got slightly excited, and decided to read the ad. The first paragraph was about global IT services and all that, the usual. But the second paragraph started "Our Software Defined Networking based comprehensive cloud services…" I think I stopped breathing. Then I started breathing very quickly. I don't think I have been this excited on an airplane flight since I flew by myself to visit my grandparents when I was ten. I jabbed my elbow into the person sitting next to me, vigorously poking the page. "Look at this," I squealed. "This is what we do!" My seatmate feigned moderate interest, and did not slug me or call the police. After all, it was my daughter. But no one could deny the evident conclusion: SDN has gone mainstream.

I incorporated this story, waving the actual ad, in my keynote address in Bad Homburg. You can watch the antics, and in fact see all the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) presentations (slides and videos), at http://www.layer123.com/sdn-onf-webcast/.


Most of the content is from the ONF workshop organized by Marc Cohn, chair of our Market Education Committee. This was no mere tutorial, but a full day's program of substantive presentations and panels, as good as any in the conference as a whole. My keynote is entitled "Con Con Pro." It's only 12 minutes long, and the big news was our recent establishment of two new working groups: Wireless & Mobile and Northbound Interfaces. But I felt as though the entire keynote was propelled by the energy I got from reading the NTT ad. During the April 2012 Open Networking Summit, as Urs Hölzle was disclosing that Google had rebuilt its entire worldwide data-center-interconnection network on OpenFlow, Nick McKeown leaned over to me and whispered, "The world just changed." For me, it just changed again on the British Airways flight. SDN is airborne.

- Dan Pitt, Executive Director

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