Much of the SDN talk, though, was backwards-looking, focusing on the Nicira and Vyatta acquisitions (by VMware and Brocade, respectively) and essentially saying, "See, this proves SDN has value."
Well, no. Plenty of acquisitions have led to exactly nothing.
What does highlight SDN's potential (and, yes, I mean potential, not value) is that most of the main networking players, from Cisco to HP to Juniper, are aggressively fleshing out their SDN positions. Plenty of startups are in on this game too (Embrane, Midokura, Plexxi, to name a few). But what's different is that the SDN hype is breaking from the typical cycle where startups do the heavy lifting and trumpet its virtues, then incumbents show tepid interest before starting to launch their own initiatives and acquiring or crushing all but a couple of the best-funded, most-innovative startups, which manage to compete on their own.
This time, the startups don't have as much of a head start and must be on top of their game pretty much from day one.
IDC predicts that the SDN market will generate $3.7 billion in revenue by 2016.
Of course, there are plenty of in-the-trenches IT folks who are skeptical of SDN. Frankly, I'm skeptical of the skeptics. The IT pros managing and maintaining those expensive boxes are worried about having their expertise made obsolete during the next hardware refresh. And, of course, until about six or eight months ago, I could reliably count on skeptics to tell me that the cloud was a science project each time I wrote a cloud story.
I actually didn't encounter that much SDN skepticism at Interop. I did run into doubt about pieces of the SDN puzzle, such as OpenFlow, but most of the people claiming SDN wasn't for them were basing that on the fact that they had too much money tied up in legacy architectures to abandon them in the near future.
The cloud and mobile have been on a collision course (convergence course?) for quite some time now. I'm a firm believer that one of the best ways to prevent data loss on mobile devices is to make sure sensitive data doesn't get stored on them in the first place.
No, I’m not advocating a no-BYOD vision; rather, when mobile employees access sensitive data, it should reside in the cloud, not on their devices. And it should stay there. Of course, the premise of this belief is that cloud security will rise to the challenge. While we're not quite there yet, it's doable.
The convergence I encountered over and over again at Interop was that everything from mobile device management (Citrix) to 4G failover (CradlePoint) to indoor wireless optical networking (RiT Technologies' Beamcaster) are integrating cloud-management capabilities that allow IT pros to manage remote, mobile and branch office workers and systems. Critical IT services are being pushed out farther and farther from headquarters, and IT workers don't necessarily need to go along with them.
Interop 2013 really hammered home the idea that the days of "cloud" being an overhyped trend are long gone. It's an enabling technology as much as anything. For hype-phobic trend-loathers, it's time to look elsewhere for something to hate.
Jeff Vance is a Santa Monica-based writer. He's the founder of Startup50, a site devoted to emerging tech startups, and he also founded the content-marketing site Sandstorm Media. Follow him on Twitter @JWVance.