I recently came across this article from John Dix – who made the point that throughout the year, SDN events have helped monitor and inform the community on where the adoption is really occurring. Many articles like this suggest to me that the market understands the idea of SDN opening up a “stack” as in the entire solution – from the metal, to the OS, to the applications. Yet today, there is not enough understanding to necessarily pull the ideal stack together. Articles such as this ask a common question we are all trying to answer: How much SDN is enough to see the value of SDN?
Customers help us see the value in “de-laminating the stack” and moving toward a horizontal model instead of the traditional, fully integrated and closed system that legacy networking vendors now provide. This makes sense because a more open SDN was designed in part to enable innovation and help break some of the vendor lock-in that a closed system fosters. Conversely, for even visionary customers, it can be daunting to try to pull the stack back together and add value to their specific environments.
Do customers see SDN as part of their collective visions for the future? Sure, however, sharing that vision does not mean they have the resources, skills or tools today to start.
If you are a follower of “chasm crossing” (see for example Geoffrey Moore), then SDN will first follow a pre-market signal from innovators and early adopters, then we will sit in the chasm until the mass market catches up and finally has the pain that we can alleviate.
So what can we do to get past this initial phase? Or ensure we don’t get stuck in the chasm?
Counter to our Pica8 messaging, sometimes you need to combine elements or components to deliver a more complete solution. Over the last year, we have added more than 220 customers to our roster and we see three common customer groups:
The brave that have time, resources and enthusiasm – This group is dominated by research labs and universities with graduate students willing to learn. From this group, we have seen considerable innovation and they have helped us understand what combinations of controllers work best for certain application types.
The second group is similar to the classic “early adopters” – They see the future, but need more than a sliver of the stack. They need a platform to develop on. This group is more from industry than academia with operational experience and best practices they can leverage from the server side and they have enough scripting talent to take a base system and build on top.
The last group is the traditional, more pragmatic “early majority” – They have not moved yet. They are watching and learning and they help us acknowledge that we still have that classic chasm to cross.
When will the pragmatists jump in? I don’t have a crystal ball, but having said that, our customers have told Pica8 that we have “enough” of a solution for them to extract business benefits based on solid economics. Over the last year, I have seen us make true progress in being able to capture the leading edge of those pragmatists.