& cplSiteName &

2012 Belonged to SDN & NFV. But Will They Deliver in 2013?

Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes

There's no question (at least in my mind) that software defined network (SDN) and its close cousin, network functions virtualization (NFV), were the big stories of 2012 in telecommunications technology – and not much doubt, either, that they will continue to be the big stories of 2013. But before we can predict they will also be the big success story, an awful lot of detail must be sorted out: We are far from being able to declare definitively that SDN and NFV represent the future of networking technology.

Here are ten challenges that must be resolved if SDN and NFV are to fully realize their huge promise:

  1. How will SDN be integrated with, OSS and BSS systems?
    Presently, this is a big black hole with nothing much in it, but given the legacy that exists in every major telco, it's the biggest unanswered question in the SDN story.

  2. How will the new environment be orchestrated?
    There's a general recognition that an orchestration layer of some kind is required, but will this be accomplished by operators themselves, by vendor proprietary schemes, on the back of open source schemes such as OpenStack or through a new set of standards?

  3. What's the relationship between NFV and SDN?
    Some operators believe that NFV can bring benefits without using SDN (or at least Openflow) – others believe that they are joined at the hip. In 2013, we will see the first fruits of NFV, and with it the beginnings of an answer to this question.

  4. What's the relationship between SDN, NFV and the various telco cloud programs?
    Again, some telcos are trying to ensure that the three developments are coordinated, but though there clearly is a relationship, there's no defined roadmap for how it's constructed.

  5. How far will the ONF be the prime location for SDN development?
    Other initiatives already underway include the IETF's ForCES work, but such is the significance of SDN that we can expect other major industry organizations to get involved too.

  6. Will operators really take the plunge and replace proprietary hardware with generic Ethernet switches and generic industry-standard servers?
    Some already say yes, but when push comes to shove, will the famously conservative network engineering teams agree?

  7. Equally, how will major suppliers respond?
    Despite bold statements from some telcos, few will likely bet the network on start-up vendors, and will likely be dependent on their major suppliers for some time yet. But will those suppliers respond boldly to the new requirements or drag their feet?

  8. How hybrid is hybrid, and for how long?
    The ONF is working on a standard hybrid switch solution, but it's not yet clear what it will look like and whether big established vendors (some of whom already are touting their own hybrid solutions) will play along.

  9. Where will telcos start with NFV and SDN?
    Few, if any, expect a big bang – instead they will likely replace or augment existing networks and functions piece by piece. In its white paper, the NFV group sets out a long list of functions that might lend themselves to virtualization. But where will telcos start, and will they all start in the same place?

  10. Can telcos resolve the many rivalries and tensions among their departments and divisions in a way that enables them to fully realize the benefits?
    This brings us full circle, since the OSS question is right at the heart of this dilemma. Can the gap between IT and networks be bridged in an environment where some functions and divisions may disappear altogether?

It's a long list that raises legitimate questions about the timing of the transition, and it's in the nature of these developments that this list is far from definitive; there are many others.

Making things worse, these questions must be answered in a rapidly evolving environment that may soon include some highly disruptive network service providers using all the principles of SDN to usurp the major telcos and their businesses.

Despite the uncertainties, we should not doubt that the underlying principles of SDN and developments associated are truly revolutionary, and represent perhaps the most exciting potential change in telecommunications technology since IP hit telcos big-time in the mid-1990s. If SDN really delivers, we may find ourselves reversing John Gage's famous 1984 aphorism that the network is the computer; instead, we may see the computer (aka the server, aka the data center ...) becoming the network. As one SDN revolutionary put it in conversation, "Our aim is to make the network disappear."

The stakes could hardly be higher, and we will likely see big fortunes made and big companies lost in the coming transition. Heavy Reading has been following all the key developments closely, and has already published its initial thinking in Multicore Processors Drive the Software-Defined Network: A Heavy Reading Competitive Analysis. And to kick off 2013, we plan a special webinar in early January in which the team will further elaborate its views on SDN, NFV and their potential impact. Look out for that invitation, and in the mean time, a happy New Year from all at Heavy Reading!

— Graham Finnie, Chief Analyst, Heavy Reading

(5)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Beer
1/5/2013 | 2:03:27 AM
re: 2012 Belonged to SDN & NFV. But Will They Deliver in 2013?

I guess the here key point is "Will operators really take the plunge and replace proprietary hardware with generic Ethernet switches and generic industry-standard servers?"

A network service provider's major revenues come from 1) Layer 1/0 Private line - (Eth over)SDH/OTN/WDM/fiber, 2) Layer 2 MPLS(-TP) VPN/WAN and 3) Layer 3 IP transit service contracts. There are specialized technologies for providing these contract services. (Generic) Ethernet switches do not allow implementing any of these contract types, whether or not 'software defined' via industry-standard servers.

Where the push comes to shove is when having to answer the question: Does SDN enable providing the network contracts per above with same or better quality, but at substantially lower cost (and why would that fundamentally be the case)?

User Rank: Light Beer
1/5/2013 | 2:03:23 AM
re: 2012 Belonged to SDN & NFV. But Will They Deliver in 2013?

shouldn't large enterprises be consider as early adapters?

looks like native generic switches are more suitable for such enterprises than to telcos, isn't it?

looks like telcos are very conservative and it will require some time and more evidences before they will adopt such a revolution.


User Rank: Light Beer
1/5/2013 | 2:03:22 AM
re: 2012 Belonged to SDN & NFV. But Will They Deliver in 2013?

Great way to sum up the issue. You have specialized gear for a reason -- there is big money associated with providing services in a predictable, redundant way with lots of reporting. Can you do this with generic hardware, better software integration and SDN as a controller? Yes or, at least, I bet we're pretty close.

If I were an SP, I don't know if I'd be the first in the pool. Specialized hardware has its place. My smartphone takes a good snapshot but my DSLR is the BEST camera. 

This reminds me of how much guff carrier Ethernet got vs. TDM in its early years. Eventually the specialized service cost too much to provide vs. the commodity service that could do all the same things as TDM.

How close are we to seeing that same thing with SDN in some applications?

User Rank: Light Beer
1/5/2013 | 2:03:20 AM
re: 2012 Belonged to SDN & NFV. But Will They Deliver in 2013?

There is an important undercurrent here however: the need for reduced latencies and jitter (as well as, for certain applications, rock solid reliability and security).

The delay variations (jitter) increase unavoidably when doing packet level switching at each node, as in case of Ethernet. Moreover, when mixing different customers/users' traffic at packet level on same shared switches, there are the everything affects everything problems hurting QoS and causing security concerns. For these reasons, circuit switching T/WDM (either in form of SDH, OTN or direct WDM) has to be used instead of packet switching (eg Ethernet VLANs etc) for latency/jitter critical applications such as networking for high frequency trading and for high quality streaming media transport.

Importantly, the need for latency/jitter minimization is becoming essential for increasingly wide range of applications, eg streaming big data realtime analytics/intelligence and interactive multimedia applications. Multi-user shared packet switching is not a good network technology for these (high revenue) applications.

That is not to say that there could not be 'commodity' hardware that can be managed via vendor-neutral open standard interface from the SP's NMS servers. However that commodity hardware needs to have advanced L1/0 capabilities underneath the packet switched protocol layers to be performance-wise competitive vs vendor-specific NMS+equipment technologies.

In particular I could see a market opportunity for (SDN-managed) pure play L2 MPLS-TP LSR product integrated with L1/0 VPN capabilities. Naturally such technology can be offered also via the IaaS model, ie, contract networks as a service.

User Rank: Light Beer
1/5/2013 | 2:03:16 AM
re: 2012 Belonged to SDN & NFV. But Will They Deliver in 2013?

Using Ethernet it is fully possible to deliver predictable latency with end-to-end jitter in the ns range. OTN and SDH is not required for this purpose.

1) Gigabit Ethernet services can be aggregated/de-aggregated into 10 Gigabit Ethernet pipes with low latency and jitter below 400 ns.

2)  Traffic can be added from gigabit client interfaces onto a 10 Gigabit Ethernet pipe, still with low predictable latency and jitter below 100 ns on the 10G.

Look to TransPacket for more details: www.transpacket.com

Hence, SDN will not inhibit services with OTN and SDH (circuit switched) type of requirement.

More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Fixed wireless broadband is the flavor of the month &ndash again &ndash but with a number of not-insignificant number of hurdles still to be overcome.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is building excitement, but still finding some barriers hard to overcome – specifically the need for very low-cost, power-frugal and ubiquitous networking. Enter low-power, wide-area (LPWA) networking, making powerful and inexpensive long-range networks for the IoT a reality.
AT&T and Amazon Web Services have planted flags in the ground that will shape the new landscape of collaborative partnerships for many years to come.
Huawei CEO Eric Xu finds inspiration in an unlikely place -- Harley-Davidson's drive to transform itself into a digital enterprise for the 21st century.
The ability to holistically analyze, in real time, any network data impacting customer experience is one reason why big data and analytics (BDA) will become a key network element in the near future.
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
Wednesday, October 26, 1:00PM EDT
Security: Tackling DDoS
Gary Sockrider, Principal Security Technologist, Arbor Networks
Friday, October 28, 1:00PM EDT
Security: The Plusses and Minuses of Open Source Software
Nick Feamster, Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University
Wednesday, November 16, 1:00PM EST
SDN 101
John Isch, Practice Director, Network & Voice, Orange Business Services
Friday, November 18, 1:00PM EST
SDN & Open Source
Christopher W. Rice, Senior Vice President of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation Technology Beyond DOCSIS 3.1

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Liu Jianhua speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Hybrid Video Solutions to Change TV, Change Future

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Ian Locke speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei Future-Oriented Giga Coax Network

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Allen Wang speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei at SCTE 2016

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and take a sneak peek at the Huawei booth at SCTE 2016.
LRTV Custom TV
Assuring Network Quality in a Rapidly Changing Environment

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

As the rate of change and complexity increases in agile networks, the importance of introducing DevOps methodologies for integrating active test and assurance solutions throughout the full service lifecycle becomes critical to ensure that customers are experiencing the service quality they demand. The industry landscape is changing, and software-based test and ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
A10 Networks on Service Providers' Industry Needs

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders hears how A10 enables service providers to accelerate, secure and optimize their application delivery to drive down costs, enhance service availability, and better respond to customer requirements, so they can improve customer satisfaction, monetize their network, and grow revenues.
LRTV Custom TV
New NFV Use Cases for Cable TV

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

A large number of NFV use cases are focused on the enterprise domain, looking at virtualization of customer-premises equipment (CPE). To date, there has been little focus on the use cases and business case for virtualization of the video content delivery networks required to deliver unicast and streaming video to consumers. Amdocs commissioned Analysys Mason to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Meet the Future Workforce: New Faces, Expectations & Motivations

10|19|16   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

Millennials and their younger peers, Gen Z, expect more out of their network and more out of their work. Intel's Lynn Comp shares how the industry can prepare for this new generation of workers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Global Services User Congress 2016 Highlights

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

ZTE held its 2nd Global Service User Conference in Dusseldorf on October 13-14. Representatives from network operators, leading industry analysts and ZTE senior expertsattended the event, exploring the best practice in managed services and the vision to transform network operations into the operations center of the future (OpCF) in the software-defined networking ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cliff Grossner on Cloud & Network Synergy From Carrier Service

10|18|16   |     |   (0) comments

Local carriers offer the collaborated cloud and network service that benefits from their understanding of the regulations operating in different vertical markets.
In this interview, Cliff Grossner from IHS Technology talks about how this advanced service can support business agility and flexibility.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX: Live from SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Cyrille Morelle, VeEX's President and CEO, talks with Light Reading's Alan Breznick live from the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016. They discuss DOCSIS 3.1 technology, deployments and early lessons learned. New products on display include the CX350s-D3.1, CX380s-D3.1, CX310, AT2500-3G, FX150 OTDR and MTT WiFI Air Expert.
LRTV Custom TV
Smith Micro's Carrier-Grade WiFi Component

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Carol Wilson of Light Reading as she interviews the CTO of Smith Micro, Dave Sperling.
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Attacks Have Major Internet Sites on the Ropes
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/21/2016
Verizon Wants More Data on Yahoo Breach
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/20/2016
WiCipedia: Grace Hopper Promotes Diversity, Girl Scouts Code & How to Thrive
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 10/21/2016
Layer3 TV Comes to Town, Hints at Future
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 10/21/2016
Telecom Italia Plots Digital 'Overlay,' Not Transformation
Iain Morris, News Editor, 10/17/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.