We have seen the increasing power of software in terms of virtualizing hardware. Of course the hardware does not disappear, software needs chips to run on, but it may become irrelevant where these chips might be. And moreover, the chips being used may be some that have not been developed to run that specific software.
Now a company, Nicira, is taking a step forward and aims at virtualizing the network, and not a small one: its goal is to virtualize all telecommunications network(s)! Take a look at their vision of a software based network.
Its founder was at Cisco for several years and now is on a war path to make Cisco switches a thing of the past. Not sure if that is going to happen, I asked a colleague of mine to comment on this, but clearly the software and the flexibility that it brings changes the way we look at objects. Their characteristics, be it a digital camera or a tablet, are no longer perceived in terms of usage as dependent on the object hardware, rather on the software that we can run on it.
Clearly, if, and it is a big if, this approach can extend to networks there will be several casualties along the way. Operators have to really ponder the implications. No way to get rid of wires and antennas but all the value that is today inextricably connected to the management of those hardware pieces may shift to software and to those that are able to provide the most effective one!