Light Reading

SDN: Start Making Sense

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

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
The success of NFV and SDN will depend on service assurance, big data, end-to-end orchestration, and a centralized catalog.
The move to 100G in long-haul networks is driving the integration of DWDM transport and OTN switching, finds Heavy Reading.
Service providers are being challenged to enable a digital lifestyle for their corporate clients as well as residential customers.
Big data analytics is creating a multi-billion-dollar revenue opportunity for service providers.
The Evolved Packet Core (EPC) has emerged as one of the leading candidates for network functions virtualization (NFV).
Flash Poll
LRTV Documentaries
Cable Eyes Big Technology Shifts

4|16|14   |   03:02   |   (4) comments


US cable engineers are facing a lot of heavy lifting in the coming years, notes Light Reading Cable/Video Practice Leader Alan Breznick.
LRTV Custom TV
Maximizing Customer Experience & Assuring Service Delivery in an IP World

4|15|14   |   4:57   |   (0) comments


Steven Shalita, VP of Marketing, NetScout Systems, Inc., discusses the challenges cable/MSO operators face in assuring the delivery of new IP-based services. Key points include the value of proactively managing performance, and using rich analytics and operational intelligence to better understand service and usage trends, make smarter business decisions and ...
LRTV Documentaries
Bye-Bye DVD: Consumers Embrace Digital Video

4|10|14   |   04:17   |   (7) comments


Veteran video analyst Colin Dixon, founder and principal analyst of nScreenMedia, says research shows 56% are using digital video already.
LRTV Documentaries
Video: TW Cable Puts Multicast Gateways to the Test

4|8|14   |   04:13   |   (1) comment


Tom Gonder, a chief architect at Time Warner Cable, explains how its trial of multicast gateways is impacting IP-based video plans.
LRTV Custom TV
Managing & Monetizing Big Data in Operator Environments

4|7|14   |     |   (1) comment


At Mobile World Congress, Gigamon's Director of Service Provider Solutions, Andy Huckridge, and Heavy Reading Analyst Sarah Wallace discuss the 'big data' issues facing carriers and operators today.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Data Center Energy – Build Your Data Center in a Modular Way

4|7|14   |   2:13   |   (0) comments


Dr. Fang Liangzhou, VP Network Energy Product Line, shared his thoughts about the challenges for data centers during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Agile Network Solution – An Overview of Huawei's Agile Network Solution

4|7|14   |   2:31   |   (0) comments


Ajay Gupta, Director of Product Marketing, Networking Product Line, gives an overview of the Agile Network Solutions during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s eLTE Voice Trunking, Video and Data Applied for Railways

4|7|14   |   1:38   |   (0) comments


Gottfried Winter is the Sales Director at Funkwerk, a German specialist in GSM-r terminals and a long-time partner of Huawei. At CeBIT 2014, Winter talks to Light Reading about this partnership and the integration of enhanced voice trunking, video and data functions.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
LeaseWeb Speaks Highly of Huawei's Datacenter Products

4|7|14   |   1:37   |   (0) comments


Rene Olde Olthof, Operations Director LeaseWeb, talks about the next data center transformation during CeBIT 2014.
LRTV Documentaries
Comcast: Reshaping the Cable Network Architecture

4|3|14   |   07:11   |   (8) comments


Shamim Akhtar, Comcast's architect and senior director of network strategy, explains why the cable company is moving to a more distributed network architecture.
LRTV Custom TV
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger at Mobile World Congress

4|1|14   |   3:41   |   (0) comments


VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger speaks to Heavy Reading about the value of virtualization spanning from the data center to service provider networks to mobile devices.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Analysts' Impressions of Huawei SoftCOM at ONS 2014

4|1|14   |   1:11   |   (0) comments


After visiting the Huawei booth at ONS, Lee Doyle of Doyle Research gives his appraisal of Huawei's SoftCOM solution.
Hot Topics
BlackBerry Invests in Healthcare IT Startup
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/15/2014
Volvo: AT&T HSPA+ Can Drive My Car
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/16/2014
T-Mobile Petitions Operators to Kill Overages
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/14/2014
Cisco & VMware Are Apple & Google of SDN
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 4/14/2014
Mobile Apps Susceptible to Heartbleed, Too
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 4/14/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed