Putting the Spotlight on Software Defined Networks

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FierceTelecom.com 4 3 M ay 2 0 13 M ay 2 0 13 FierceTelecom If carriers incorporate SDN features that are available in the short-term, it could ease the overall expenses in the long-term. Software-defined networking has radically reshaped the data center sector in just a few short years, changing how data centers are designed and operated, while also inspiring a crowd of innovative SDN start-ups, several of which have been gobbled up by larger players. Transport SDN and Network Function Virtualization may enjoy quite the same sort of overnight success, and whether or not you end up feeling service providers are adopting transport SDN aggressively may depend on your definition of the technology. It is still early enough in the transport SDN market that research firms Infonetics Research and Dell'Oro Group, which normally quantify transport market segments, said they do not have numbers yet for transport SDN. "We characterize the SDN market as not even in its infancy, but pre-embryonic--a twinkle in its parents' eyes," said Michael Howard, principal analyst and co-founder of Infonetics, adding that it could be another two years before commercial transport SDN products are widely available, and another five years before transport SDN is considered mainstream. But in the meantime. "SDNs will be applied to specific parts or particular applications or services, that is in 'contained domains," he said. "Fully SDN-ized networks are more like 10 years away. By the way, at least one global player has a design team architecting their next gen SDN-NFV network, with goal of deploying a brand new network over a period of many years, and gradually moving all services over to the SDN network." Rick Talbot, senior analyst for transport and routing infrastructure at Current Analysis, agrees that some service providers and their vendors are ready to move on the SDN technology trend in the short-term, but noted that industry agencies like the ONF and IETF are still developing standards for LAN- based SDN concepts to be applied in the WAN. "Operators and vendors will use network features, as they are available, to approximate an SDN framework," said Talbot, who earlier this year produced an often- cited two-part report on transport SDN. "Some of the smaller, nimble operators are already pursuing some of these approaches to provide bandwidth-on-demand services." On the vendor side, Talbot said companies such as Ericsson, for example, are taking elements of their existing portfolio that conform to an SDN framework concept and using them to form a service provider SDN solution. While transport SDN has been perceived as a transition that could take several years and be costly over the long-term, Talbot said that if carriers take the approach of incorporating whatever SDN features are available in the short- term, it could ease the overall expense of the task and lessen the pain. "The pragmatic approach to Transport sDn is gaining Traction, but Don't expect an overnight success By dA N O 'shE A transport SDN should not be costly or lengthy," he said. "The trick will be to interwork SDN control with the operator's OSS/ BSS infrastructure. The biggest question that I have regarding the development of SDN in service provider networks is how to integrate SDN with the existing OSS/BSS. Ultimately, SDN could replace the OSS/BSS, but that is truly a long way off." Howard added, "I see this as the biggest challenge of SDNs--the 'hybrid SDN' environment, where existing routers will have two or more coordinated controllers-- both IP/MPLS and SDN. And by the way, to be very sure, SDN is not equal to OpenFlow. OpenFlow talks to devices/equipment. Real SDNs must have the capability of an application asking for a service to a service model layer--telling the services layer what it wants-- and the service model layer in turn translates the service request into a network request, which in turn tells the appropriate network domain controller what is needed.That network domain controller tells the equipment or devices exactly what to do in terms of flows and ports- -and this is where OpenFlow and other SDN protocols play." Meanwhile, it could be a few years before the service provider sector sees widespread use of a version of transport SDN based on OpenFlow extensions from the ONF or IETF. "One of the methods that the Optical Transport Working group of the ONF is investigating is, effectively, an OpenFlow connection between the SDN controller and the transport network's EMS/NMS, which would be equipped with a software agent that recognizes OpenFlow," Talbot said. "The EMS/NMS could then provide the complex interaction with the individual network elements while providing a 'simple' abstraction of the network to the OpenFlow link. Service providers will take a gradual path to this version of [transport] SDN because the industry and ONF will need to provide the necessary extensions to OpenFlow before it can sufficiently control optical networks." "We characterize the sDn market as not even in its infancy, but pre-embryonic--a twinkle in its parents' eyes." michael howarD, principal analyst anD co-founDer of infonetics

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