UPDATED 15:30 EDT / MAY 07 2013

The Networking Industry Has Been Lazy, Says Ivan Pepelnjak of NIL Data #emcworld

Someone who I am dubbing the godfather of the networking industry (based on his credibility in the space), Ivan Pepelnjak (Chief Technology Advisor) NIL Data Communications stopped by theCUBE on day two of EMC World 2013 to discuss what he was seeing in the networking world with host Stu Miniman. The biggest theme he identified was network virtualization and how hypervisor vendors, for a long time, were lazy.

“I’m kidding, but not kidding, they were lazy,” said Pepelnjak. Fast forward to now, and they are rolling out solutions that actually work, and work at scale. VLAN’s (Virtual Local Area Network) are another story. Pepelnjak gave a great example comparing VLANs to a rotary phone.  With rotary phones you would call a switchboard, and they’d connect you to who you were trying to call. VLANs are the same concept, with manual patch cables to relay exchange. The problem with that model is that the ‘middle man’ isn’t needed, and can prolong productivity.

Miniman got Pepelnjak to give his opinion on a few other key areas of networking in a rapid fire form:

  • Open Flow – low level protocol, downloading
  • SDN (Software-Defined Networking) – the idea that you decouple the forwarding that’s done by the physical switches from the control plane that is communicating with the outside world
    • Don’t look at the network one switch at a time (50 switches as one entity
    • Reduces your management pain, allows the controller to dom something smarter, usually, looking at the bigger picture
  • NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) – load balancing, anything that has to touch more than one switch
    • Business model: We sell you the box, not the software (upset people)
    • We want to virtualize those things, spin-up on demand, I don’t want to buy another load balancer

The last few minutes of the interview were by far the most interesting. Pepelnjak shares some very poignant thoughts about the networking industry.

Some people are afraid because they haven’t invested into themselves. There are other people who would love to move forward. The reality is that there is so much else to be done, but we aren’t doing it because we’re busy doing VLANs.

Eighty-to-ninety percent of a company’s time is spent doing nothing more than keeping the lights on. While the industry as a whole needs to move to dissolving these bottlenecks, does that mean that people are going to be looking for new work? Pepelnjak was adamant in declaring that people in technology shouldn’t be afraid: “There will be plenty of work.”

So who’s fault is it that 80-90 percent of work is just keeping the lights on? Miniman asked if Pepelnjak thought that since Cisco has dominated the networking marketplace (some report as much as 80 percent market share), are they, in a way, keeping the market from being fully optimized? Pausing before answering, Pepelnjak replied:

It’s not Cisco’s fault, it’s the [industry’s]  fault. Because what you’re seeing is that every single vendor is jumping at niche prblems that don’t make sense if we would step back and re-architect everything. Networking vendors are busy solving problems that shouldn’t exist in the first place.

Problems that shouldn’t exist in the first place. Very interesting thoughts, and I’d imagine that the majority of you reading this have a pretty strong opinion one way or the other. Feel free to share them in the comments below.

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