What do hero pilot Sully Sullenberger, humorist Dave Barry and software-defined networking have in common? They all packed the house at the 2012 Gartner Data Center Summit event that I attended earlier this month. While Sullenberger talked about leadership and Barry kept it funny, Gartner analysts presented their research showing that a rethinking of data center infrastructure and operations can lead to dramatically reduced costs. Part of that rethinking includes adopting SDN


That got a lot of data center managers thinking and asking questions about what SDN is and what it can do.  At least that’s the response I saw as we staffed the Intel® booth at the summit solution showcase.  We were there showing our Seacliff Trail (SCT) 10 Gbps/40 Gbps top-of-rack switch reference design along with our 10G Ethernet converged network adapters. You can read more about the SCT reference design here, which is based on the Intel Ethernet Switch FM6700 series.


The FM6700 series provides up to 72 10GbE ports or up to 18 40GbE ports and can forward frames at 960Mpps, while maintaining L3 latencies of around 400nS under all conditions. This product line is part of our FM6000 family, which continues our history of providing Ethernet switching silicon optimized for the data center. The 6700 series has been enhanced with advanced features for SDN such as large flow tables and support for VxLAN and NVGRE tunneling.


The data center managers I spoke with had heard Gartner’s message about reducing cost and improving network efficiency and had a lot of questions about how to turn the theory into action. This is another sign of the extreme excitement around SDN, and it was nice to see that many were becoming aware of Intel’s commitment to providing advanced SDN-enabled components.


Gartner itself is famous for its “hype cycle,” a graph that tracks the hype of a product over its lifecycle.  Exciting products emerge from a “technology trigger” and rise to the “peak of inflated expectations” before dropping in the “trough of disillusionment,” then emerging into the upward “slope of enlightenment.” In Gartner’s model, it's only after the products emerge from the trough that the market becomes real.


I’m not sure where SDN is along that curve, but after a few days at the summit it sure felt like the attendees were seeking enlightenment for how they could apply SDN in their data centers.