Facebook experiments with small-scale software-defined networking

Martin Casado, co-founder and chief technology officer of Nicira, which VMware (s vmw) bought last year for $1.26 billion, has gotten tired of people discussing and agreeing on the importance of virtualizing networks. He wants to get out there and start solving networking problems with network virtualization.
He said as much on Wednesday at a Churchill Club forum entitled “Is Software-Defined Networking the Next Revolution?” at Ericsson’s office in San Jose, Calif.
It turns out Facebook wants to make networking more efficient, too. Najam Ahmad, director of network engineering at Facebook (s fb), said so while sharing the stage with Casado and others at the event. Ahmad is looking for potential solutions to problems such as getting applications to send packets onto servers’ network-interface cards and getting confirmation that that’s happened. No more lost packets that you don’t know are lost.
“We’re just starting out (with software-defined networking),” Ahmad said. “I wouldn’t say by any means that we’re using it wide-scale. We’re looking at use cases and developing that more prototype stage in that sense.”
But use cases are hard to come by, even though AT&T, eBay, Fidelity Investments, NTT and Rackspace have implemented Nicira’s Network Virtualization Platform, as my colleague Stacey Higginbotham reported. But software-defined networking and network virtualization hasn’t exactly gone mainstream. As Casado himself put it, the conversation needs to move toward actual use cases and how to change people’s lives with network virtualization, just as server virtualization has changed people’s lives — or at least IT.
For now, the hype around SDN continues. We’d like to see some network virtualization use cases, too.