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Ericsson Claims SDN Advantage

Craig Matsumoto
News Analysis
Craig Matsumoto
2/19/2013
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Just how big a role might Ericsson AB play in the software-defined networking (SDN) revolution? You won't have noticed the Swedish vendor making any SDN acquisitions or declaring any SDN spinoffs, and the company says that's because it's already got more critical pieces collected than its rivals. Funny then, that Ericsson has been comparatively less noisy about SDN than, say, Cisco Systems Inc. or, more recently, Juniper Networks Inc. That's changing, as Ericsson has begun claiming its substantial mobile-network presence as an advantage in the development of SDN -- or of whatever more flexible, more dynamically provisioned type of network emerges from the SDN craze. Next week's Mobile World Congress will be the grand soapbox for Ericsson's newfound SDN preaching, and the company has been busily setting the stage. Last week, Ericsson deluged journalists with MWC announcements, which as a whole skewed towards cloud and network functions virtualization (NFV) capabilities. Now it's getting more specific. On Monday, the company hosted a further pre-MWC briefing that included a declaration of Ericsson's first SDN product: It will add an OpenFlow 1.3 controller to the SSR 8000 router in the fourth quarter of 2013. It's easy to think of Ericsson as an SDN player, says Brad Casemore, an analyst with IDC. "It's a question of whether they want to productize it," Casemore says. "I know they've been tinkering with it for a long time." Radio days
The important points about SDN and its potential go beyond OpenFlow, covering an end-to-end network view that requires knowledge of the radio network, Ericsson officials argue. That's because a lot of what's being talked about in SDN -- including the ability to quickly provision network services and move network connections -- has already been accomplished, at scale, in the mobile network, says Erik Ekkuden, Ericsson's head of technology strategies. "Yes, we have to change everything in the network, but we do that all the time. If you look at the speed of modernizing mobile networks, if you look at the speed of cloud -- the speed is already there. So if you just take that speed that we are used to every day, we are taking that into the [fixed] network," he says. To put it another way, he says Ericsson is already adept with the mobile network and the cloud -- the two sides that are pushing the need for SDN in service-provider networks. What's needed, then, is a service-provider SDN (the catchphrase Ericsson will be repeating throughout MWC) in between the two. Like a lot of players, Ericsson thinks SDN has to be considered as a network-wide architecture -- with the difference that Ericsson is big in the radio access network. Others "are talking about the need for a holistic view, but they're not using all the parts of the network that are already in place," Ekkuden says. "When you do this from the data center all across the network, [through the] radio domain, transport domain, the IP edge, all the way to the data center, that's when you get the value. The value is not really in the data center," he says. For more

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading
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Craig Matsumoto
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Craig Matsumoto,
User Rank: Light Sabre
2/24/2013 | 6:18:51 PM
re: Ericsson Claims SDN Advantage
-áBjarne, good points. I hadn't heard Ulf's comments specifically, but I would presume Erik's statements are now the more formal position. (Or maybe it's that Erik, based in Silicon Valley, sees the world a little differently from the rest of Ericsson...?)

Anyway, it's pretty clear Ericsson is aware that others have grabbed all the SDN headlines and wants to make a splash of its own.-á I'll find out more on Monday morning at MWC.

I do think Erik has a point about presence in the mobile network, and about the way the mobile network reacts dynamically in ways SDN aspires to. How much that adds up to, we'll have to find out over time -- as you noted, it's going to take a while for product releases, but i'd imagine some of the groundwork could start getting laid this year.-á

(btw - I'd have replied earlier but was technically on vacation and didn't monitor comments at LR.-á Thanks again for the input - good perspective there.)
Bjarne10
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Bjarne10,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/20/2013 | 8:08:31 PM
re: Ericsson Claims SDN Advantage
Craig thanks for the article, but as a Nordic service provider, I challenge this 100%! Ericsson thus far has architectural conceptual thinking with nothing implemented! They promised to -á have something live sometime in Q1 2014 at best!. How can they be a leader on something they have not launched or know little about? Their CTO Ulf Edwaldsson has publicly discounted SDN, Virtual EPC and virtualization, claiming nothing will happen for 5 or more years, which contradicts what Erik Ekkuden is claiming. Whom are we supposed to believe? Meanwhile smaller nimble players in the US and here in the EU are running key trials with Tier 1 service providers. If you see the data produced by ABI Research and others benchmarking the key infrastructure providers, Ericsson does not rank at all for innovation in this area, having attended SDN centric events, addressing questions to the Ericsson attendees has not made me feel too comfortable as a client, considering their low level of understanding nor strategy going forward on this area, sorry to be critical but you can-¦t play the "We are Ericsson" card and "We know it all on this area" Giving them the benefit of the doubt and for the sake of our-áScandinavian companies-áit would be nice to be pleasantly surprised next year TBD?. In the mean time the messaging we as customers see and expect from them is futures and pure slide-ware nothing else.
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