I was a networking person as an intern in college and during my time in the Marine Corps. When I left active duty I crossed over to the software side of things. I’m pretty good at technical things and a reasonably quick study.
I recently started a new thing at CFN. CFN provides next-generation networks to its customers. These next-gen networks need to be fast, reliable and well-appointed with features. We use terms like SDI, SDN, SDWAN, and NFV.
The terms SD-WAN, SDI, SDN, and NFV sounded complicated. I read; I studied; I read some more; I wore out YouTube watching videos and webinars. I read the definitions over and over, certain I’d missed something. I mean really, Software Defined Infrastructure (?!), that has to be pretty difficult to understand, right?
You can describe it with big words or you can use “normal people” words. In the end, software is eating the world. Marc Andreessen said it famously in a 2011 (!) article in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Why Software Is Eating The World.” Five years is a loooong time in tech and the fact that Andreessen had it right that long ago is impressive.
Here’s my straight-scoop glossary for those out there, like me, who thought they were slow on the uptake:
- Software Defined Infrastructure (aka “SDI”): The stuff that used to require a “thing” to do its job (e.g., the GPS that suctioned onto your windshield) is now an “app” running on some other thing (e.g., your phone). Note – GPS always WAS a software app; it just ran in dedicated hardware (<- key point). Now your GPS can run on a standard hardware platform.
- Software Defined Networking: Receiving a packet on wire #1, deciding it needs to go out on wire #2 and then sending it that way – that was the stuff of big router vendors like Cisco, Juniper, and Brocade. These routing decisions now run in software as an app on a server. Note – routing always WAS a software app; it just ran on dedicated hardware. Now your router can run on a standard hardware platform.
- Network Function Virtualization: Firewalls, load balancers and stuff like this – these things take packets that come their way and decide what to do with them. Firewalls decide who gets to pass and who gets tossed aside. Load balancers decide which door a packet is to be sent through. These decisions now run in software as an app on a server. Note – firewalls and load balancers always WERE a software app; they just ran on dedicated hardware. Now your firewall and load balancer can run on a standard hardware platform.
So, the pattern?
[Disrupted thing] now run in software as an app on a server. Note – [disrupted thing] always WAS a software app; it just ran on dedicated hardware. Now your [disrupted thing] can run on a standard hardware platform.
Simple right? Yes, by itself it means you can go get a reasonably powerful Dell 1U server and “dematerialize” your router, firewall, load balancer, intrusion detection system, and more. That’s not the hard part.
The hard part is thinking about what new opportunities that creates. Those opportunities will be in software.