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SDN App Store Launches, with Tiers

The opening by computer giant Hewlett-Packard (HP) of a software-defined networking (SDN) app store poses a question for tech observers. Does the ability to buy SDN applications off the (virtual) shelf mean that this technology has arrived, or at least become more real?

HP execs think so. “We are leading the market in terms of taking SDN mainstream,” said Kash Shaikh, senior executive director, HP Networking, in a video touting HP’s SDN developer workshops, software developer kit (SDK) and app store. But whether we have moved into a realm where SDN has become “as simple as downloading Angry Birds,” as HP Global Marketing Leader Jacob Rapp reportedly said, is another question.   APPS

There’s a key difference between the Apple and Google app stores and the enterprise portal that opened on October 1, about a year after HP first announced it at Interop New York 2013. Any consumer wanting to download Angry Birds – or something more popular (not such a great choice, HP) – simply clicks to install. There is no range of application categories based upon “their support and test process,” as noted in the HP SDN app store announcement.

That’s fair, because SDN is not child’s play, after all. At one end of the SDN app-store spectrum are the ones that are “built and tested exclusively by HP.” They reside in the top circle. (See left column at the portal). Then come the apps from HP partners, then those from the community, and then those labeled as conceptual, or in development. There is an implicit, high level of networking knowledge at all levels, whether it’s within HP itself or affiliated partners or channel integrators or fellow developers tapping into beta versions.

In other words, the growing reality of SDN remains closely linked to expert implementation. In that sense, this HP app-store story aligns with the launch of SDN-enabled enterprise cloud services from a service provider, such as NTT Com. Whether you build a network yourself or buy (or rent) it from others comes down to technical competence, available resources, cost structure and projected return on investment. That’s not new with SDN; rather, it’s one of those eternal questions of IT operations.

The Network is the New Network

As a technology-focused PR firm, we try to stay current with infrastructure and popular trends. That’s not easy, with technology, services and consumer behavior constantly shifting. But I’ve found a key. It’s a little saying that captures what has been happening at the busy intersection of technological innovation, on the one hand, and media and entertainment consumption, on the other.

Here it is: The network is the new network. TV2

Let me explain. For anyone who has been paying attention to the evolution of television over the past decade or so, this is really no big mystery. The infrastructure that drives the delivery of today’s information and entertainment services – the technological network – is supplanting the original bundle of broadcast programming known as the TV network.

The once all-powerful TV network has been losing ground for many years, as these points help illustrate:

  • In 1999, HBO broke new ground when The Sopranos became the first cable network series to be nominated for an Emmy Award for best drama, earning more nominations that year than any show – broadcast or cable.
  • Ten years later, in 2009, Comcast announced plans to acquire NBC Universal. Thus, a company founded simply to extend broadcast signals by way of amplified coaxial cable was taking over one of the old big-three networks.
  • Last year, Netflix became the first non-TV network to win an Emmy. Founded in 1997 as a DVD-by-mail service, Netflix began streaming video a decade later. Now it not only has 48 million subscribers but also produces award-winning content.

My mantra oversimplifies, of course. The old networks ran (and continue to run) on technology, too. Nor has broadcast – or cable or satellite – TV faded away in the face of Internet alternatives. According to data from Comscore for Q3 2013, Americans spent far more (250%) time watching TV than they spent on multi-platform Internet use in Q3 2013. Online video, in particular, amounted to only 5 percent of the time spent with live and time-shifted TV.

But pay attention to the trends. Comscore notes that consumption of digital media has tripled over the past three years. Tablet and smartphone usage has fueled that explosion. Once upon a time, executives at the NBC, ABC and CBS called all the shots. Now that power is shared with whoever can deliver whatever content consumers demand to whichever video display devices they prefer. The network is the new network.