Here is something I have been kicking around in my head for some time, and wishing for a quick answer…
In the networking world everyone has been up in arms about OpenFlow for a while now. Some thought leaders in networking think that OpenFlow (Software Defined Networking) has a real potential to shift the architecture of the network (in other words it’s not vaporware). I am no (OpenFlow) expert, but to me it seems like the goal here is to flatten the network, making it easier to manage, scale, and deploy. But OpenFlow is really a protocol and nothing more. There is no structural advancements. By structural I mean our structured cabling and power infrastructure. Business as usual in those parts of the building. IDFs are still packed with access layer switches (ASICs). The OpenFlow crowd would not agree with me here (probably rightfully so), but to me it is applying the principal of controller based wireless access points to multi-layered networks (read: layer 2, layer 3, access, distribution, core).
Now, Motorola has been quietly marketing this little thing called Passive Optical LANs. These bad boys are a progression of the network carried over from service providers who have used Passive Optical Networks (PONs) for some time now (think: fiber to the home). Sometimes these are referred to as GPONs (Gigabit Passive Optical Networks). Motorola is marketing this solution for enterprise / campus networking rather than just carriers. Before going forward, stop and consider: Google purchased this division of Motorola. Let that sink in…
Now it seems to me if the goal is to centralize the network, drawing the intelligence back toward the “physical core” (I use my words wisely there), then POLs would be a superior choice over something like OpenFlow. After all, why not scrap the need for ASICs all together rather than just separate control from forwarding.
There are drawbacks to POLs. For one, it’s basically “fiber to the desktop” reinvented. While this reduces the need for switching IDFs, it does add an additional need for unique access layer hardware / media conversion.
So here is what I am driving at – looking at business, operations, and technology drivers I would suggest POLs should be considered more of a “threat” to the traditional networking models than OpenFlow. Yet, it’s OpenFlow that gets a symposium. Now, I am no conspiracy theorist but think about this: OpenFlow permits the continued sale of hardware (data/forwarding plane still consuming building power in IDFs), while also doing something to move networking toward a more efficient architecture (not power efficiency, but operational/management efficiency). Meanwhile, if POLs took off, all those 3560s, 2960s, and 3750s stand to get trashed…literally. And because our industry is driven mostly by a small group of vendors, why would they eat their children in the name of advancement? Ask yourself, why are vendors backing OpenFlow?
I may post more later, as I am slated to meet some clients who chose to use POLs in their corporate infrastructure. I am not sold, but my mind is open (always).
Some interesting discussion takes place here: https://plus.google.com/u/0/116575301739886800473/posts/QQLbvkknNbe