If generalized networking isn’t going to be successful, then what will be? SDN deployments (especially those early on) will be focused on very narrow use cases…The more specific the use case, the easier it is for potential buyers to say “yes.” The challenge, of course, is that no one wants to narrow their target addressable market (TAM)…However, success in the business world is not measured by TAM. Zero percent of a massive TAM is still zero dollars. Startups need to get cash into the company early. Those early deployments are important because they force an iteration of the product and provide success stories and customer references from which to build.
What Mike is saying is important point in at least two ways beyond the points he makes in the piece.
(1) Investors want to predict where the networking market is heading because of SDN. Who are the long-term winners? How will the new marketplace impact the established players? I think the answer is exactly aligned with real-world sales. And SDN technology that addresses specific use-cases is getting sales.
From talking to Big Switch Networks, I know that their Big Tap application is winning as a viable and less-expensive way to build a visibility fabric. Big Tap is a foot in the door to those customers that have bought in. Now, Big Switch can say, “Hey there, Big Tap customer. Did you know we can do a lot of other compelling things with our technology? We’d like to talk to you about Cloud Fabric.” If you were happy with Big Tap, would you give BSN a chance to present Cloud Fabric? I know I would. Why not?
(2) Customers are still trying to understand why they need SDN. Cynics are simply skeptical that SDN is an appropriate technology. Others point out that SDN doesn’t seem to achieve much we can’t already do with traditional networking approaches. To overcome these issues, vendors must demonstrate specific products solving specific problems – that will be interesting to customers. The fact that a certain product happens to use SDN to achieve a result should be incidental. Mike rightly points this out in the opening of his post.
Whether or not something is SDN is almost immaterial to the role that the device or solution plays.
Exactly. Not completely immaterial, but almost.