Light Reading

3 Barriers to SDN Adoption

Mitch Wagner
7/2/2014
50%
50%

While SDN makes sense on technological merits, it faces major barriers to adoption. And those barriers aren't technical.

One major barrier to SDN adoption is cultural. Carrier network engineers are currently hardware operators. They deal with dedicated, physical boxes that need to be transported, hooked up, configured with a command-line interface and occasionally visited in situ. SDN will turn carrier networking upside-down; engineers will become software developers, configuring networks using graphical software and writing code in interactive development environments. The only time they'll get up on their feet is if they have treadmill desks.

The job of being a network operator will change. It requires a lot of retraining and redrawing the lines, circles, and boxes on the org chart. (See The Three Faces of SDN and SDN Faces a Human Hurdle .)

Which leads to the second barrier: Power politics. Many network engineers will be simply unable to make the transition to software networking, and they'll be out of work. People resist being put out of jobs. Even tougher for SDN advocates: Some of these people will be upper management who've built their careers around hardware-defined networks. Many of these people are going to see the shift to software networks as a threat to their position within the company. They see the transition to software networks as a death-struggle, and they'll fight against it with every iota of their being.

Sure, hardware-defined networking has its issues. But people whose job it is to solve problems have a strong vested interest in preserving those problems. (I wish I could remember who said that -- it's brilliant.) If your job is to clean the hair out of the shower drain, you're going to fight like a Klingon against any attempt to eliminate shower-drain-hair as a problem.

But what of the benefits? Software-defined networks are more easily maintained, less expensive in capex and opex (allegedly), and more flexible, permitting the deployment of new services faster to customers.

That all appears to be true, but it's difficult to prove -- which is the third barrier to SDN adoption. SDN exists down deep at the bottom of the network, while financial benefits become obvious high up in the application layers. SDN requires foundational network changes whose benefits are indirect and difficult to quantify immediately.

So what's an SDN advocate to do? Start small, deploying SDN in new services. Do fast projects with quick, demonstrable financial return. Enlist allies in the organization where you can find them, and do your best to navigate around opponents without confronting them.

NFV, often mentioned in the same breath as SDN, represents a way to get SDN in the back door of network operators. Virtualizing a network application like a load-balancer or firewall, particularly if it's customer premises equipment, can be a small, local project with immediate financial benefit. Do enough of those and somebody's going to see that virtualizing the underlying network architecture is a great idea too.

As to the managers and senior VPs who fight SDN as a threat to their survival: Some will come around, some will be proven wrong and sidelined, and for others, you may just have to wait for them to retire. Putting arsenic in their coffee, tempting though it may be, will get you the wrong kind of attention.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to wagner@lightreading.com.

(9)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
SDNAT
50%
50%
SDNAT,
User Rank: Light Beer
7/10/2014 | 1:45:27 PM
SDN adoption barriers
As the article says, Yes, SDN make sense, it is inevitable in the future, and certainly brings lot of benefits. 

In my opinion, some of the key barriers are

1. Risk apetite for new technology:  SDN in general perceived to be for Data Centers. DC is where many of key enterprise apps are hosted. With SDN, multiple changes will be made for DC architecture from technology as well as from overall org perspective. All put together enterprises' perceived risk seems higher. 

2. Fear of unknown: Lack of knowledge about SDN among network engineers/operators/managers etc keeps them away from adopting sooner than later. 

3. Lack of standard: Since different vendors are offering different types of solutions for network agility but are all calling them as SDN the customers are confused and not sure which way the technology is heading. So, enterprises want to wait & watch mode.

4. Currently invested (paid off) network solution is working: Currently deployed network architecture and solution are working fine for the most part and business is functioning. So, no immediate urgency for adopting SDN solution. 

 

 
rvrambo
50%
50%
rvrambo,
User Rank: Light Beer
7/8/2014 | 1:00:54 PM
Re: Hyrbid
To be frank much better than the original article.  We need absolute and concrete proof of.

1. OPEX savings (  not slides  )

2. Scalability of the solutions to large carrier networks.

 

SDN adoption is by natute disruptive to the extent that it can effect the company earnings. So any higher ups of the publicly traded carrier networks would think multiple times before signing up on the dottted lines to approve.

Having said that, SDN adoption has to start at a small scale , may at the edge and prove itself  before it can get to core and/or complex services.

 

If you tell some one that, you can exactly the SAME thing using different set of tools with a great promise of the CAPEX but no OPEX to show for in the next 12-24 months.. that's a bound to fail or rejected at the highest levels.

 

For example, they said the same kind of things about reconfigurable optical transport few years back and we all know what happened.

 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
7/3/2014 | 12:37:23 PM
Re: Hyrbid
Good points. Resistance to SDN isn't foolish, coming from people who demand proof it's ready for prime time before deploying it.
futurephil
50%
50%
futurephil,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/2/2014 | 7:38:57 PM
Re: and now some specifics...
The word "here" is linked. That doesn't show up on this board, though.
VictorRBlake
50%
50%
VictorRBlake,
User Rank: Moderator
7/2/2014 | 5:03:20 PM
Re: Hyrbid
self editing here, I meant "serious problems" Gotta hate those autocorrect things...
sam masud
0%
100%
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/2/2014 | 4:01:59 PM
Re: Hyrbid
If a well understood and popular technology--Ethernet--took a fair amount of time to develop into a carrier-grade service, then we can expect SDN, which is far more complex, will take much longer to be established in carrier networks. But it will be deployed because its capex advantages are hard to ignore.
sam masud
50%
50%
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/2/2014 | 3:58:06 PM
Re: and now some specifics...
Did you intend to provide a link in your post?
futurephil
50%
50%
futurephil,
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/2/2014 | 2:42:16 PM
and now some specifics...
To sort of pick up where this post leaves off, here are a couple of technical barriers that telcos really are talking about and some advice on overcoming them.
victorblake
100%
0%
victorblake,
User Rank: Lightning
7/2/2014 | 10:49:29 AM
Hyrbid
First -- I have to say that while you make great points about the challenges to adopting SDN, you do not point out all of the shortcomings of SDN and you exaggerate some of the "claims" or benefits of SDN. No matter how much the controllers do people are still going to have to put fiber or copper in the ground or up on poles. I'm pretty sure that won't be done by software. So I think you've neglected about 1/2 of the challenge of the telecom industry and by capex probably something like 80% to 90% of the capital cost of telecoms. Changing the routers, switches, and OSS to even 100% of SDN -- is perhaps like changing the transmission on a car from a mechanical transmission to a software controlled transmission (much as we did with electrical power control on solar race cars I used to work on). You do not eliminte the need for tires, a frame, and the rest of the "hardware" that makes for a car.

Second, like most technologies I think we are likely to see a hybrid approach where SDN will evolve by at first offering APIs into existing forwarding methods (like MPLS and VPLS VPNs) -- and then latter a variety of hyrbird approaches.

Third, even in the long run, SDN has series problems tha have not been addressed. Not the least of these is that centralized control is very very vulnerable -- in fact it is the exact opposite of IP's distributed architecture and would be subject to the same kind of vulnerability of any other centralized control scheme (like SS7). There's always the swing of the pendulum, but to think it will swing fully to centralized and stay there is to ignore all of telecom history.

While you make many great points, your article implies that senior telecom folks are resisting SDN because it is new or software. I don't think that's the case at all. They are resisting it because it has gaping holes, inconsistencies, immaturity, and -- not least of all because if they tried to build a 100% SDN network today -- they could not -- the products and technology just are not there yet. Despite what you think there are many very senior telecom execs with a strong background in CS -- who have taken the industry to where we are with advanced automation. The number of people required per (any measure such as Tbs) has been on a continuous decline. That's due to the efforts of the people you are claiming don't know about software.
More Blogs from Column
Bigger. And Better. But definitely bigger.
When trying to develop innovative technologies, engineers must be willing to take risks, make mistakes and move ahead incrementally without having all the data.
Mobile network operators have the network and a business model that makes them well suited to lead the charge as the Internet of Things (IoT) takes off.
Gathering useful information for real-time management of Ethernet and IP networks is a non-trivial issue.
There are three important questions service providers need to address for in-market and out-of-market expansion.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
The New IP is actually bigger even than business. Like another hugely important tech that Light Reading is digging into right now, the New IP has the potential to change the world by fundamentally advancing what it is possible for people to achieve with communications.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei Shares Its Vision of the Future of Mobile Networks Innovations

2|26|15   |   2:30   |   (0) comments


Mobile broadband is changing our lives. It's reshaping the Internet, industry, and society. It allows us to freely connect with one another anytime, anywhere. At this year's Mobile World Congress, Huawei will share its latest insights and newest ideas and technologies that will shape the future of MBB. They will showcase their end-to-end MBB solutions that will ...
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accelerate Digitizing, Boost Digital Business

2|26|15   |   6:14   |   (0) comments


A new digital revolution is leading us to a better connected world. Together with millions of digital partners, Huawei will help CSPs to build their digital service ecosystem and aggregate a wide variety of digital services. In this video, we find out how Huawei is going to help CSPs implement digital operations.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
The Secret Recipe to Enabling Hyper-Growth Industries

2|26|15   |   3:38   |   (0) comments


With a number of successful cases on network capability exposure, Huawei is going to share the secret recipe to enabling hyper-growth markets with a step-by-step approach.
LRTV Documentaries
BTE 2015 Is Bigger & Even Better

2|25|15   |   03:13   |   (4) comments


This year's Big Telecom Event (BTE) in Chicago is going to provide more opportunities than ever for networking, getting to grips with key industry challenges and opportunities and, equally as important, having some fun.
LRTV Interviews
Light Reading ICT Leaders Roundtable at MWC 2015

2|12|15   |   1:07   |   (2) comments


On Sunday March 1, 2015, Light Reading will host an ICT Leaders Roundtable in partnership with Huawei. At this half-day event, CIOs, analysts and researchers will discuss key industry trends like virtualization in the cloud with a specific focus on new business models. Located at the luxurious Renaissance Hotel near the Fira Barcelona, space is limited so please ...
LRTV Documentaries
Going Green in 2015

2|12|15   |   02:04   |   (0) comments


Energy efficiency is set to be an incredibly hot topic in the telecom industry this year.
LRTV Custom TV
SDN & NFV: Where Are We Going From Here?

2|11|15   |   11:27   |   (0) comments


Vitesse Semiconductor CTO Martin Nuss gives his perspective on why SDN and NFV should be tightly interconnected and how he sees the industry moving forward.
LRTV Documentaries
Time for Gigabit Europe?

2|9|15   |   01:27   |   (4) comments


Gigabit broadband networks are springing up all around the US and they'll soon become more commonplace in Europe.
LRTV Interviews
Brocade Brings New IP Vision to 2020 Vision Executive Summit

2|3|15   |   4:23   |   (0) comments


In December 2014, Light Reading gathered telecom executives in Reykjavik, Iceland to discuss their vision for high-capacity networks through the end of the decade. The intimate, interactive meeting was set against the backdrop of Iceland's spectacular natural beauty. As one of the event's founding sponsors, Brocade's Kelly Herrell shared his company's strategy at ...
LRTV Interviews
Brocade's Kelly Herrell on the New IP

2|2|15   |   12:36   |   (0) comments


In December 2014, Steve Saunders sat down with Brocade VP of Software Networking Kelly Herrell at Light Reading's 2020 Vision executive summit in Reykjavik, Iceland. They spoke about Brocade's approach to the New IP, the future of the telecom industry, and more.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Dr. Dong Sun Talks About Carriers' Digital Transformation & Huawei’s Telco OS

1|29|15   |   6:28   |   (0) comments


Dr. Dong Sun, Chief Architect of Digital Transformation Solutions at Huawei, discusses how telecom operators can become digital ecosystem enablers and deliver optimal user experiences that are in real-time, on-demand, all-online, DIY and social (ROADS).
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Chief Network Architect Talks about Network Experience & Operators’ Strategies

1|29|15   |   3:39   |   (0) comments


In the digital age, network experience has become the primary productivity especially for telecom operators. In this video, Wenshuan Dang, Huawei’s Chief Network Architect, discusses how carriers can tackle the challenge of infrastructure complexity in order to enhance business agility and improve user experience.
Upcoming Live Events
March 17, 2015, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Net neutrality, broadband services and the current outlook on data consumption, as presented by the New Jersey Institute of Technology.
Hot Topics
Cyber Security Expert Warns: You're Doing It Wrong
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 2/23/2015
10 Weirdly Useful IoT Devices
Eryn Leavens, Copy Desk Editor, 2/24/2015
Small Cells Enabling Location Services
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 2/25/2015
MWC: Let the Madness Begin
Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-chief, 2/23/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Check out Light Reading's interview with Jay Samit, the newly appointed CEO of publicly traded SeaChange International Inc. With a resume that includes Sony, EMI, and Universal, Samit brings a reputation as an entrepreneur and a disruptor to his new role at the video solutions company. Hear what he had to say about the opportunities in video, as well as the outlook for cable, telco, OTT and mobile service providers.
G'day! And welcome to an entirely new feature on Light Reading -- our weekly "CEO-to-CEO" interview.