As part of its major Domain 2.0 infrastructure project, AT&T (T) has sent a request for information (RFI) to equipment suppliers asking them to submit ideas and architectures that support software-defined networking (SDN) - the shifting of network intelligence to software-based controllers that interact with switches/routers.
MKM's Michael Genovese predicts AT&T's RFI will likely "have significant long-term consequences" for the telecom equipment industry. He sees the impact being "most negative" for Cisco (CSCO), and a positive for Ciena (CIEN), F5 (FFIV), Finisar (FNSR), and early data center SDN software leader VMware (VMW, EMC)
AT&T, like others, is enthusiastic about SDN's potential to lower management costs, improve network efficiency, speed the provisioning of new services, and allow "white box" switches/routers to take the place of proprietary hardware.
The last feature has many Cisco investors nervous, given its potential to increase competition and pressure margins. John Chambers has declared white box hardware (already embraced by many Web/cloud companies) to be a major long-term threat.
Cisco is counting on its powerful Insieme hardware/software and ACI architecture (meant to adapt to the needs of apps/services) to help neutralize the SDN threat. But Genovese thinks ACI "seems too complex and proprietary compared to more white box-oriented architectures."
Regarding VMware, Genovese believes the company's NSX platform (combines SDN with other features) has "a strong chance of being selected as the Data Center virtualization platform." Strong uptake is expected for NSX, which has won the support of many Cisco rivals, starting in 2015. Major carrier SDN adoption is expected to arrive later.