As we look forward to 2017 it is time to peer out into the distance and think about what will happen during the year:
This fight to the death battle is inevitable, because there is no de-facto industry standard for 25, 50, and 100G optical interconnects. The early adopters of advanced optical interconnect are the Super Seven – and each has its own view on what the technology should look like. Some want to use multi-mode fiber while others insist on single mode. Some use QSFP and parallel fiber while others insist on WDM (wavelength division multiplexing) over single fiber SFP. Still others want to use break out or pigtailed options. This fragmentation of the market means that small manufacturers can’t develop all of these different options. And with only one major customer for each variant, it is a very dangerous game to play. Some players who are “one-trick ponies” will find themselves unable to achieve scale and maintain the investment required to compete.
NVMe Over Fabrics (NVMe-OF) arrived with a bang just a scant 18 months ago and is being driven forward by the performance advantages of RDMA and RoCE. Often a new technology is over-hyped into a state of “Overstated Expectations” and eventually falls into a “Trough of Disillusionment.” But like RoCE before, NVMe-OF will cross the chasm in 2017 with GA solutions appearing that deliver true business value. This will accelerate the decline of the Fibre Channel making this market collapse even faster.
Many have predicted the end of Flash memory with the advent of new non-volatile memory technologies such as 3D-Xpoint and ReRAM. In true Mark Twain fashion, the news reports of the death of Flash are greatly exaggerated. Flash memory will continue to thrive even as the new technologies struggle to become reliable and manufacturable in high volumes. In fact the major Flash memory manufacturers will innovate to dramatically improve the read and write latency of Flash, thereby closing the gap on the main advantage of these new technologies.
With success comes fierce competition. So despite the overall success of Flash Memory storage there will be winners and losers. Violin Memory will be first and foremost among the struggling All Flash Array vendors that will finally give up the ghost. The competition will get fierce as the big boys and especially the now colossal Dell-EMC hit their stride. It will become increasingly difficult for the smaller guys (and maybe even some of the bigger guys) to compete. Consolidations and pink slips will be the order of the day in 2017.
In 2016 the much ballyhooed potential of Network Function Virtualization (NFV) to eliminate the need for purpose built appliances, failed to materialize. Unfortunately vendors found that when they ported their applications to industry standard servers the performance of their network functions (such as load balancers and firewalls) was dramatically degraded. The promise of better agility with pure software defined virtual network functions (VNFs) unfortunately came at the expense of untenable tradeoffs on price, performance, and power. Instead of reducing cost the performance limitations of VNFs running on X86 servers meant more boxes, dollars, and Megawatts.
But this will all change in 2017. Advanced 25, 50, and 100G Network adapters now have built-in Open Virtual Switch (OVS) hardware accelerators that allow vendors to achieve the agility and DevOps capabilities of software defined VNFs, without the performance penalties previously suffered. That combined with the nimble software providers developing true cloud native VNFs based on scalable microservices will make 2017 the year that NFV finally starts to function!
The original grand vision of Software Defined Networks was to create an entirely new, centrally managed, flow based networking architecture. But displacing 30+ years of router technology is a tall order. In reality all but the largest cloud providers have rejected the forklift upgrade required to replace all their BGP routers with flow based manager – and instead have adopted only a subset of the grand SDN vision. The use of ‘overlay’ networks (based on VXLAN, NVGRE, or GENEVE technologies) is becoming widely adopted. This form of network virtualization enables isolation within a multi-tenancy service provider environment and importantly allows tenants to span across L3 routers transparently to both the traditional routers and to tenant software. So SDN and network virtualization is becoming a reality, but only the overlay part of the grand vision.
Closely related to SDN the original grand vision of Software Defined Networks was to use OpenFlow to replace traditional end-point path based routing algorithms, and instead treat every flow a separated entity. Unfortunately this vision didn’t take into account scalability challenges of flow based forwarding nor the robustness and feature set that has evolved around traditional network routing, quality of service, and management. So the funeral for OpenFlow as a network routing technology will be held in 2017, but it will persist as an API to configure flow policies at end points and within gateways.