Open Networking Brings Benefits That Traditional Networking Can’t

By John Fruehe - March 31, 2016
For years, networking switches and other equipment was purchased as a “black box”. Hardware was tightly coupled with the software that was needed to run it, all coming from a single vendor. This meant that the products from companies like Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Alcatel-Lucent and other networking suppliers were much easier for the vendors to support. But it also meant those limitations that helped vendors have prevented businesses from moving quickly. This is why networking seems to be the thing that holds your business back whenever an important change needs to happen. A new trend in networking, called open networking, is trying to change this by breaking that tight linkage between the hardware and software, allowing Linux-based software to run on any network switch. Breaking this linkage gives businesses more flexibility and allows them to move faster to capture opportunity in the market. Companies that you’ve heard of like Dell and Hewlett Packard Enterprise are helping to drive this strategy (along with companies like Accton and Quanta, who might not necessarily be household names). A paper that we have just published—with specific examples of how open networking is enabling businesses to reduce their costs, increase capabilities and drive better ROI for the business—can be found here. Dell is having success with companies who are gravitating to their open networking strategy. These customers need an alternative from the status quo of traditional networking, yet at the same time are hesitant to move to a new, unknown vendor. Because many companies already rely on Dell for their server infrastructure, the support and supply chain benefits make Dell a good fit as customers seek out networking alternatives. ICM Netsystems is a hosting provider in Spain who was looking to build what they called an “open networking data superhighway” to help boost their company’s growth and innovation. As a provider of on-demand streaming, secure cloud-based storage and virtual private networks, ICM Netsystems was feeling the flood of network traffic that virtualization was bringing. The company saw the need to innovate as a top priority. With network traffic clearly growing, simply adding more traditional hardware and software was not the answer; they needed smarter, more innovative solutions. A key goal in this push to innovation was a network that would have the flexibility to deliver not only today, but also in the future. This meant choosing a platform that helped them avoid vendor lock-in, enabling them to be more flexible with future choices or directions. Through open networking and a Linux-based network OS, ICM Netsystems was able to simplify management greatly. With Dell and Cumulus, ICM Netsystems was able to boost their flexibility by 50%. The price / performance was significantly better than traditional networking solutions, with the customer seeing an immediate 45% increase in performance as soon as the Dell Networking switches went online. The open networking approach enabled the ICM Netsystems to develop a protocol that simplified on-boarding and management of new customers, boosting their efficiency by 20%. Additionally, innovation increased 20% as the company can now extend its portfolio of offerings with even more services and capabilities than the past, based mainly on the flexibility that open networking delivers. ICM Netsystems now has the tools it needs as well as the bandwidth to meet future networking demands, enabling them to bring new services and capabilities to their end customers without having to worry about the underlying infrastructure. With an open networking solution in place, ICM Netsystems now has an infrastructure to help them expand their business in the future, something that they are taking advantage of immediately as they have seen their bottom line already grow by 35%. Just as we saw both Linux and virtualization help drive more customer choice, flexibility and value in the server market, open networking (which chiefly relies on Linux-based network operating systems and network virtualization) will help bring those same benefits to networking. And the network world is sorely in need of some change. There are more details about how other companies have been able to use open networking, deploying software from vendors like Big Switch Networks, Cumulus Networks, Midokura and Open Daylight. You can download our paper here.
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