Light Reading
Software-defined networking is a potential game-changer for telecom networks

SDN: Start Making Sense

Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
8/13/2012
50%
50%

Very few – if any – days have gone by over the past few months in which the relative merits of software-defined networking (SDN) have not been publicly debated.

As we note in the latest Heavy Reading report, "SDN & the Future of the Telecom Ecosystem," the debate is likely to increase in the near future given the potential impact for both carriers and vendors.

Conceptually, SDN and the approach of separating the control plane from the data plane present a strong value proposition. And while this approach has long been adopted in other parts of the network (session border controllers and IMS core), it does hold the promise to revolutionize and break new ground on the way data transport networks function.

Here's a quick take on the factors and unanswered questions that ultimately will determine if SDN becomes a truly transformative force in telecom, or if it ends up being something that achieves reasonable facsimile status in that it effected change, but ultimately not within scope of the original vision.

On the transformative potential side, there are these two points:

Point 1: SDN-based initiatives such as OpenFlow are being driven by the carrier in response to real-world requirements. This is an important factor given that it highlights a view that the status quo approach of "pseudo" open tools and software applications is too costly, too inflexible and ultimately no longer sustainable.

Point 2: SDN brings some much-needed simplicity to an overly complex world. Given the impact of moving applications to the cloud and the requirement to introduce policy control for application access and security, networks are going to increase in complexity on many levels, and any approach that has the potential to minimize or reduce that complexity is highly desirable. Support of a distributed control plane model is no longer a viable approach.

On the less-than-meets-the-eye side, we have:

Point 1: It's difficult to implement a concept. Despite all the recent activity in the various industry forums, SDN is still largely in the first phase of industry adoption. As a result, it's really difficult to assess where it will be in even the next few years once the real product development work starts to take place. Further complicating the process is that even though OpenFlow, an SDN protocol implementation, clearly has some early market momentum, other approaches exist and more could emerge. For example, in our report we analyze how the IETF's Path Computation Element (PCE) specification may be a more practical approach to take for carrier SDN optical deployments. The question then becomes whether SDN can achieve meaningful cost savings and programmability openness if a number of protocols/specifications that follow a similar methodology are adopted on a global basis.

Point 2: We still don't know what vendors really think about SDN. This is a difficult question and ultimately depends on vendor competitive standing and market momentum. Therefore, vendors will have to tread very carefully as they define their SDN strategies to protect market share while also appearing as aligned to the spirit of SDN and not simply integrating SDN associated buzzwords like programmability into marketing campaigns. This dilemma is further complicated by uncertainty of how licensing of control plane clients associated with approaches such as OpenFlow will be priced.

A lot remains to be sorted out regarding SDN, including potential for success as a game-changer for telecom networks. Over the next 12 months, a number of critical developments both at a vendor and forum level will provide a much better picture of SDN's ultimate impact on the telecom industry.

— Jim Hodges, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading


For more information about Heavy Reading's SDN & the Future of the Telecom Ecosystem, please contact:




(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
obaut
50%
50%
obaut,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:23:42 PM
re: SDN: Start Making Sense





In networks, the events to be controlled, ie packet traffic flows and/or collective bursts caused by individual flows have their natural granularity of in the range of just a kilobit or less, which at eg 10Gbps are through in 10^3/10^10 = 0.1microseconds or less.


Control plane separated from data plane will take seconds to react, ie will unavoidably be thousands of times too slow to be effective.


One could compare the effectiveness of SDN control planes to a thermostat that checks the room temperature twice a year, in January and July, and delivers the adjustment based on the last measurement in six months: it will turn up the heat in July, and the freezing AC in January (assuming the room in question is located in the latitudes of North America).


The software model that worked for managing other software abstractions such as VMs just is ill-suited for handling hardware-level events, such as the more sporadic packetized network communications between VMs at the data plane, and it is even worse for the even less predictable collective packet traffic volume variations between access points of service provider (or enterprise wide area) networks.


Now, we could discuss what the solution is, but that's a bit different topic than SDN.

More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Enterprises increasingly realize that in order to run their businesses economically they need to fundamentally change ways in which they operate their businesses in the connected IP world.
There's plenty of activity in the emerging G.fast broadband technology sector, but will it come to anything?
Here are some steps that service providers could take to boost the reach, awareness and success of their multiscreen video ventures.
Telecom operators are deploying new technologies in their data center environments to reduce costs and increase revenues.
The cloud debate has moved on to the network capabilities needed to meet customers' demands, with SDN and NFV at the heart of discussions.
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Documentaries
Broadband Battles

10|31|14   |   01:39   |   (0) comments


This year's Broadband World Forum featured a number of show floor battles focused on access gear, components and coffee.
Jonestown
Mobile Backhaul: Going to the Dark Side?

10|30|14   |   2:26   |   (1) comment


Heavy Reading's Patrick Donegan shares his view on a dark trend that bubbled up at Light Reading's annual backhaul conference in NYC.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With CEO of SwitchCom

10|30|14   |   4:13   |   (0) comments


SwitchCom, an IT company based in Angola, recommends a variety of Huawei solutions and hardware to their customers in the energy industry.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Ethiopia's Ministry of Water Irrigation & Energy

10|30|14   |   4:08   |   (0) comments


Gosaye Mengistie of Ethiopia's Ministry of Water Irrigation & Energy discusses the collaboration with Huawei in that country.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview with Dongfang Electronics Corporation

10|30|14   |   5:46   |   (0) comments


Dongfang Electronics Corporation, headquartered in Chengdu, China, is one of China's largest manufacturers of power generators and contractors of power station projects.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview with Zimbabwe's Customers

10|30|14   |   3:31   |   (0) comments


Representatives of Zimbabwe's Ministry of Power and Development discuss the energy needs of their country as well as new areas of improvement due to enhanced ICT capabilities.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Colbún Chile

10|30|14   |   4:29   |   (0) comments


In Chile, an aging energy infrastructure was in dire need of a modern update. Claudio Valenzuela of Colbún discusses how Huawei's ICT solutions continue to provide crucial information to improve the grid and how an in-country engineer is a cricial asset.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With YuLiao

10|30|14   |   6:27   |   (0) comments


Yu Liao, chairman of the Chinese Association for Renewable Energy in Germany, discusses the role that ICT solutions play in helping to grow renewable energy resources in Germany.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview

10|30|14   |   2:54   |   (0) comments


Sifang has been working with Huawei on several projects. JingTao Wu, Assistant President of Beijing Sifang Automation Co. Ltd., believes that the cooperation with Huawei can facilitate Sifang's process of internationalization.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
A Better Connected Smart Grid: Powering Laos

10|30|14   |   5:38   |   (0) comments


Representatives of Electricite Du Laos (EDL), a state-owned corporation, discuss the importance of ICT solutions in serving their country's energy needs.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
2014 Huawei Electric Power Industry Summit: Interview With Junwei Lu

10|30|14   |   4:50   |   (0) comments


Professor Junwei Lu of Griffith University Australia describes his work with micro grid technology and the future of the power industry.
LRTV Documentaries
The Next-Gen Network Disconnect

10|29|14   |   01:23   |   (2) comments


There's a lot of talk about making networks more simple with SDN, NFV and next-gen broadband technology – but what about the complexity of introducing such capabilities?
Upcoming Live Events
November 6, 2014, Santa Clara
November 11, 2014, Atlanta, GA
December 2, 2014, New York City
December 3, 2014, New York City
December 9-10, 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 30, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Infographics
WhoIsHostingThis.com presents six of the world's most extreme WiFi hotspots, enabling the most epic selfies you can imagine.
Hot Topics
Microsoft's Skype Embraces WebRTC on IE
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/27/2014
FTC Slaps AT&T With Throttling Lawsuit
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 10/28/2014
Wheeler Gets Down With OTT
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 10/29/2014
China's MVNOs Hit the Wall
Robert Clark, 10/27/2014
Let's Not Kill SDN & NFV With Silos
Francois Locoh-Donou, Senior VP, Global Products Group, Ciena, 10/28/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed