The radical implications of a move to software defined networks aren't lost on China. They have gathered their top technologists -- and many of the SDN leaders in the US -- to discuss the trends in an event this week.
Representatives from Google, IBM, the Open Networking Foundation, and more are in Beijing this week, speaking at China's inaugural SDN event. It is hosted by a national outfit, the China SDN and Open Networking Commission (CSONC), set up in December.
My first thought with these initiatives is always whether China will try to set its own global standard as it has done in 4G and elsewhere. Cloud computing is cloudy enough without international techno-patent politics taking a hand. That said, I'm sure plenty of smart people in China could make a contribution.
I note the event has presentations from many of China's web giants. I imagine most of them have datacenters that -- like those of Google -- are hungry for the kind of radical simplification SDN promises.
This week's event hosts talks from networking thought leaders at Alibaba, Baidu, Tencent, China Mobile, Huawei, and ZTE. It includes a whole session of talks by academics from half a dozen of China's top universities.
The US and China SDN proponents used the event as a stage to announce a liaison between ONF and CSONC. It's not clear from their press release specifically what the two groups will do together, which means they may still be working it out themselves.
There's a lot of talk in their release about promoting SDN and the OpenFlow protocol that's had so much attention to date. But talks at Hot Interconnects earlier this month made it clear it's early days for SDN. Neither Google nor Cisco believe OpenFlow is more than a starting point on the road to future protocols and architectures.
One thing is clear, 20 years into the Internet era, networking architectures are in more flux than a lump of Playdough. Just what tomorrow's routers, switches, datacenters, and protocols will look like is anyone's guess -- but it's a safe bet they will not look like those used today.
There's still time and plenty of room for China's datacenter and networking giants to weigh in with new ideas and technologies. Things are moving fast and after getting a somewhat late start off the blocks, China seems to be running as fast as anyone pursuing SDN now.