ONUG – What is it, and why am I here?

If you’ve ever seen a film with audio engineering by THX, you’ve experienced that brief, immersive surround sound that captivates your senses, completely eradicating your thoughts while the mind basks in weightless bliss.  Much like the beginning of a George Lucas film, the networking industry is currently in a state of THX, steadily swelling with that warm buzz, fantasizing about the potential for bliss.  Software-Defined Networking (SDN), Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN), Network Function Virtualization (NFV), Hybrid Clouds, Virtual Overlays and Containerization are at the crest of this tsunami of change, promised to radically disrupt the way businesses develop and operate their networks. But change is risky, especially in regards to bleeding technologies. Companies need better opportunities to understand their options and share experiences with each other.  Enter ONUG.

What is ONUG?

ONUG stands for Open Networking User Group. It’s a biannual conference focused on user-driven developments in open networking, such as SDN and SD-WAN.  ONUG stands out from other conferences in that it’s user-focused, delivered by IT leaders, adopters of technology and the community at large. Since the first conference held in February of 2013, the ONUG board has radically grown to include Bank of America, BNY Mellon, Cigna, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, FedEx, Fidelity, Gap, Inc., GE, Intuit, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, UBS, Yahoo, and The Lippis Report.
The meaning of SDN is wildly up for debate, but it’s principles transcend any beer tab feud – decoupled control and data planes, abstraction and reduced complexity, resulting in efficient, agile, automated, “insert buzz word”, networking infrastructure driven by software.  SDN is merely a topic in the wealth of partnering working groups at ONUG, helping to understand and solve true industry challenges.  ONUG working groups include: virtual networks/overlays; SD-WAN; traffic monitoring/visibility/network state collection, correlation and analysts; common tools for automating initial configuration and change management; SDN Federation/operability; Software defined data center security fabric; network services broker; and now Open Hybrid cloud.

Is it really user-focused?

ONUG claims to be just that, a “user group”.  Members of the press and vendors are not permitted to speak at or attend the morning Fireside Chats or “closed door” conference sessions. Many of the morning sessions and panels are exclusively comprised of IT executives, analysts and conference attendees.  

Tech Field Day Extra

I’m honored and privileged to be attending ONUG this year with Tech Field Day (TFD).  An ever-growing community of industry analysts, architects, and “users”, TFD is quite synonymous with the ONUG ideology.  Because of this, I’m extraordinarily excited to be a part of these open discussions.  Here is a brief preview of my schedule for the next two days:


Tuesday, May 10th
  • 8:30 AM – Nick Lippis Keynote
  • 9:00 AM – Guest Keynote
  • 10:00 AM – ONUG Schenanigans
  • 1:30 PM – Riverbed Presentation
  • 3:00 PM – HPE Presentation
  • 4:20 PM – Great Debate: Public vs. Private Cloud
  • 5:30 PM – The ONUG SD-WAN Mixer with TFD and Viptela
Wednesday, May 11th
  • 9:00 AM – Cisco Presentation(s)
  • 4:00 PM – ONUG Town Hall Panel
  • 5:15 PM – Closing Party
Since I’m attending with Tech Field Day, and considered a member of the media, looking at my schedule I can clearly see I’m not invited to particular sessions:

Day Zero Closing

Pioneering the open networking landscape is much like pioneering the west a couple hundred years ago. Massive surface areas to cover, opportunities to be had, gold to be struck, lessons to be learned.  Much like the west, it’s going to be a wild ride.  I have high hope for ONUG, driving for clarity in clouded climates.  I’m expecting to provide personal insight as much as I am expecting to learn from the great minds leading these fronts.  Stay tuned on the Twitter-verse by following #TFDx and #ONUGSping16.

David Varnum


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