Report: SDN meets the real world: implementation benefits and challenges

Our library of 1700 research reports is available only to our subscribers. We occasionally release ones for our larger audience to benefit from. This is one such report. If you would like access to our entire library, please subscribe here. Subscribers will have access to our 2017 editorial calendar, archived reports and video coverage from our 2016 and 2017 events.
SDN meets the real world: implementation benefits and challenges by Ben Kepes:
Software-defined networking (SDN) is an enabling technology shift that mimics for networking what server virtualization brought to data centers. From little more than a research project a decade or so ago, SDN has become one of the biggest trends in the data center, and for good reason. SDN allows organizations to deliver networking with the same level of flexibility and agility as virtualization has allowed them to deliver other parts of their infrastructure.
This report is aimed at both enterprise IT practitioners as well as data-center operators, and gives the audience some historical background, technical context, and specific issues to think about when in SDN.
Key highlights from this report include:

  • SDN is a trend of growing importance to anyone involved in data-center design, management, or utilization. Almost every technology vendor in the networking arena now has an “SDN story.”
  • SDN is a disruptor to traditional networking approaches. However, a hybrid approach towards SDN delivers real benefits for organizations with existing networking assets.
  • In this early stage, not surprisingly, SDN has some barriers to adoption. A hybrid approach that embraces smaller proof-of-concept trials while looking at broader deployment is the best way to approach the SDN opportunity.

To read the full report click here.

Research Agenda of Larry Hawes, Lead Analyst

Greetings! As my colleague Stowe Boyd announced yesterday, I am part of a fabulous group of smart, well-respected people that have joined the rebooted Gigaom Research as analysts. I was affiliated with the original version of Gigaom Research as an Analyst, and am very pleased to be taking the more involved role of Lead Analyst in the firm’s new incarnation, as detailed in Stowe’s post.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’ve spent the last 16 years working as a management and technology consultant, enterprise software industry analyst, writer, speaker and educator. My work during that time has been focused on the nexus of communication, collaboration, content management and process/activity management within and between organizations ─ what I currently call ‘networked business’.
I intend to continue that broad line of inquiry as a Lead Analyst at Gigaom Research. The opportunity to work across technologies and management concepts ─ and the ability to simultaneously address and interrelate both ─ is precisely what makes working with Gigaom Research so attractive to me. The firm is fairly unique in that aspect, in comparison to traditional analyst organizations that pigeonhole employees into discrete technology or business strategy buckets. I hope that our customers will recognize that and benefit from the holistic viewpoint that our analysts provide.
With the above in mind, I present my research agenda for the coming months (and, probably, years). I’m starting at the highest conceptual level and working toward more specific elements in this list.

Evolution of Work

Some analysts at Gigaom Research are calling this ‘work futures’. I like that term, but prefer the ‘evolution of work’, as that allows me to bring the past and, most importantly, the current state of work into the discussion. There is much to be learned from history and we need to address what is happening now, not just what may be coming down the road. Anyway, this research stream encompasses much of what I and Gigaom Research are focused on in our examination of how emerging technologies may change how we define, plan and do business.

Networked Business

This is a topic on which I’ve been writing and speaking since 2012. I’ve defined ‘networked business’ as a state in which an interconnected system of organizations and their value-producing assets are working toward one or more common objectives. Networked business is inherently driven by connection, communication and collaboration, hence my interest in the topic.
While the concept of networked business is not new, it has been gaining currency in the past few years as a different way of looking at how we structure organizations and conduct their activities. As I noted in the first paragraph of this post, there are many technologies and business philosophies and practices that support networked business, and I will do my best to include as many as possible in my research and discussions.

Networks of Everything

This research stream combines two memes that are currently emerging and garnering attention: the Internet of Things and the rise of robots and other intelligent technologies in the workplace. In my vision, networks of everything are where humans, bots, virtual assistants, sensors and other ‘things’ connect, communicate and collaborate to get work done. The Internet, Web, cellular and other types of networks may be used in isolation or, more likely, in combination to create networks of everything.
I’ve had a book chapter published on this topic earlier this year, and I’m looking forward to thinking and writing more about it in the near future.


How do we build applications that can support business in a heavily networked environment? While the idea of assembling multiple technology components into a composite application are not new (object-oriented programing and Service Oriented Architecture have been with us for decades), the idea continues to gain acceptance and become more granular in practice.
I intend to chronicle this movement toward microservices and discuss how the atomization of component technology is likely to play out next. As always, my focus will be on collaboration, content management and business process management.

Adaptive Case Management and Digital Experience Management

These two specific, complementary technologies have also been gathering more attention and support over the last two years and are just beginning to hit their stride now. I see the combination of these technologies as an ideal enabler of networked business and early exemplars of component architecture at the application level, not the microservice one (yet).
I’ve written about ACM more, but am eager to expand on the early ideas I’ve had about it working together with DEM to support networked business.

Work Chat

Simply put, I would be remiss to not investigate and write about the role of real-time messaging technology in business. I’ve already called work chat a fad that will go away in time, but it needs to be addressed in depth for Gigaom Research customers, because there are valid use cases and it will enjoy limited success. I will look at the viability of work chat as an extensible computing platform, not just as a stand-alone technology. Fitting with my interest in microservices, I will also consider the role that work chat can play as a service embedded in other applications.
Phew! I’m tired just thinking about this, much less actually executing against it. It’s a full plate, a loaded platter really. The scariest thing is that this list is likely incomplete and that there are other things that I will want to investigate and discuss. However, I think it represents my research and publishing interests pretty  well.
My question is, how does this align with your interests? Are there topics or technologies that you would like to see me include in this framework? If so, please let me know in a comment below. Like all research agendas, mine is subject to change over time, so your input is welcomed and valued.

Being connected is more of a good thing than it is a bad thing

There are plenty of things that are bad about being connected to the internet and the social web all the time, but there are far more good things about it, including the relationships that it allows us to create with people we’ve never met

The fall of SAY Media is a sign the barbell effect is increasing

SAY Media, created when video-content company VideoEgg acquired blog-software provider Six Apart in 2010, says it is selling off its media properties — the latest example of a company getting squeezed by the bifurcation of the online advertising market

Forget the social graph: pay attention to the work graph

The term ‘social graph’ was popularized at the Facebook F8 conference back in 2007, and helped that company explain what it was trying to do in its core architecture and business models. At first I considered the term as having no real difference — a near synonym — for social networks, with the exception of stressing the ‘rigorous mathematical analysis’ derived from graph theory.

However, over time I came to appreciate that the social graph is actually a larger formulation than social networks: it is a graph (or network) of people as well as social objects — the things that people are talking about, or sharing, that shape the relationships between the people in the social networks.

It turns out that the term was originally offered up by my friend, Jyri Engstrom, the founder of Jaiku, back in 2005, when he wrote Why some social network services work and others don’t — Or: the case for object-centered sociality:

Social network theory fails to recognise such real-world dynamics because its notion of sociality is limited to just people.

Another friend, the cartoonist Hugh MacLoed (@gapingvoid) popularized the term in the years following, as in Social Objects for Beginners.

We’ve seen a few major trends in the consumer side based on the magnetic power of the social graph:

  • photo-centric social tools like Instagram have zoomed to billions of users and multi-billion dollar values, and likewise, video sharing has exploded, like Vine and YouTube
  • chat apps — where discussions are the social objects — have likewise exploded.

In the enterprise side, we’ve seen the echo of Engestrom’s words: the best work management tools are those that focus on the tight connection between people in work networks, but take some aspect of the objects of interest floating around in the workplace — the things that define or refine our working together — and tightly connect them into a work graph. The best examples of all work management categories do this, like Asana’s focus on tasks, Podio’s focus on datasets (‘apps’ in their terminology), or Atlassian’s focus on the objects of interest to developers.

This is one of the factors that suggest why the best tools are tightly focused on a small number of work objects and the relations between those objects and the people that connect through them.

Justin Rosenstein of Asana recently talked about this in a Wired piece, The Way We Work Is Soul-Sucking, But Social Networks Are Not the Fix:

A work graph consists of the units of work (tasks, ideas, clients, goals, agenda items); information about that work (relevant conversations, files, status, metadata); how it all fits together; and then the people involved with the work (who’s responsible for what? which people need to be kept in the loop?).

The upshot of the latter data structure is having all the information we need when we need it. Where the enterprise social graph requires blasting a whole team with messages like “Hey, has anyone started working on this yet?”, we can just query the work graph and efficiently find out exactly who’s working on that task and how much progress they’ve made. Where the enterprise social graph model depends on serendipity, the work graph model routes information with purpose: towards driving projects to conclusions.

In my jargon, Justin is saying that push-oriented enterprise social networks (or ‘work media’ tools) are not the solution to work productivity, any more than email is.

My sense is that the reason we are seeing a stall in the uptake of the current generation of work media apps (enterprise social networks, social ‘collaboration’ tools, etc.) is that they don’t stick close enough to the work graph and pull communications , and focus too much on the network and push communications.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying all we need is a shared file system and a way to chat. On the contrary. But we have to get the dynamics right. When people are talking about work, or sharing work objects, the objects must almost be treated as people too, with deep metadata, persistent identities, and following/follower relationship with other objects and people in the graph.

In the new Pew Internet report on the Internet of Things in 2025 I was cited for inventing the term ‘computication’:

Desktop computers will be in museums, although a certain cadre will not give up their keyboards and will resist learning how to subvocalize or sign. People who talk to their goggles are considered infantile, since most people give up on that technique before starting school. Most people have wrist or finger devices that talk with their goggles, even when the goggles are off (in bed, exercising, in the shower, etc.), giving notifications, and allowing a subset of computication capability.

Some work objects — and other social objects — will become partly animate, capable of communicating with each other and us. Sensors, AIs, intelligent documents — all will demonstrate the characteristics of Bruce Sterling’s spimes. They will have ‘lifetimes’ and they will persist. They will have relationships with us and other spimes. They will computicate.

Our work graphs will be richer for that, but today’s tools are organized around inanimate and flimsy work objects. Beefing that up is one of the major trends for the next five years in the enterprise.