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NEC Intros SDN 'Controller of Controllers'

Mitch Wagner

NEC America today introduced a Unified Network Coordinator designed to allow users to manage multiple datacenters as a single network.

"What we're announcing here is a controller of controllers to be able to scale out OpenFlow domains to allow for both intra-datacenter and inter-datacenter scaling of capacity," Don Clark, NEC America Inc. director of business development, said in an interview. "It allows us to tightly manage how traffic is moving across the WAN links, so that we can make better use of available capacity."

He added: "We have this concept of the controller managing individual switch devices on the network. Before [the new product], that would be the end of scaling. With the UNC, we can configure multiple controllers as if they were a single instance."

The UNC, part of the vendor's ProgrammableFlow Networking Suite Version 5.1, enables users to create virtual networks spanning multiple datacenters, Clark said. Using OpenFlow as the centralized control protocol, the UNC works with switches from multiple vendors, and is extremely scalable. Users can make better use of network resources by pooling them across datacenters, moving virtual machines (VMs) from overextended datacenters to others that have available capacity. End users would, in theory, experience improved access to applications and collaboration.

NEC says the ProgrammableFlow Networking Suite Version 5.1 allows users to increase by a factor of 10 the number of switches and flows that can be controlled centrally, compared with Version 5.0.

NEC envisions UNC being used for disaster recovery and business continuity, controlling two locations -- a main datacenter and a standby -- from a single network operations point. The UNC would also be useful for migrating individual virtual machines from one datacenter to another.

The UNC will be commercially available in late April.

NEC announced the product at the Open Networking Summit 2014 in Santa Clara, Calif.

The UNC "demonstrates the promise of software defined networks," Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa said in a phone interview. "The real promise of SDN is by abstracting network topology from individual devices, and centralizing the controller and providing open APIs. That's where innovation will be."

Software such as the UNC will, the industry is led to believe, enable networking and services innovation, but what kind of innovation? "Heck, we don't know yet," Skorupa said.

OpenFlow support helps NEC compensate for one of its chief liabilities. "NEC has a relatively limited portfolio of switches," Skorupa said. "But because it supports things like OpenFlow, it now has the potential to incorporate switches from other vendors."

NEC's biggest challenge, in the US market at least, is visibility. "They're not particularly visible in the US market," Skorupa said. "They don't have a large installed base in enterprise accounts in North America. As an optimist, you could say that's an amazing opportunity for growth. A more cautious view is that they don't have the established routes to market that a Cisco, Dell, HP, or VMware would have."

Centralized management (aka 'the telco cloud') is, in the words of the immortal Ron Burgundy, "kind of a big deal," with multiple vendors announcing products in just the past few weeks.

— 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 mwagner@lightreading.com.

Want to learn more about this topic? Check out the agenda for The Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. For more on the event, the topics and the stellar service provider speaker line-up, see Telecommunication Luminaries to Discuss the Hottest Industry Trends at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event in June.

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User Rank: Light Sabre
3/4/2014 | 12:56:56 PM
Re: Really?
Innovation needs a plan - even a wrong plan.  Saying we don't know can either be, that they have no idea or are unsure of the outcome.  Being unsure and flexible is a great idea.  Having no idea is a really bad one.



Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/4/2014 | 12:53:54 PM
Re: Good News for Disaster Recovery!
Disaster recovery is something small businesses in particular often neglect. It's an opportunity for service providers to fill a gap.
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/4/2014 | 12:52:07 PM
Re: Good News for Disaster Recovery!
Gabriel Brown - The Japanese need to be experts on earthquake resiliency. The islands are seismically highly active. They make Southern California look sleepy.
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/4/2014 | 12:50:19 PM
Re: Really?
Duh! - I can see both sides of this. On the one hand, the nature of innovation is that it is often unknown. On the other hand, investors hate unknowns.
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/4/2014 | 11:04:40 AM
"Software such as the UNC will, the industry is led to believe, enable networking and services innovation, but what kind of innovation? "Heck, we don't know yet," Skorupa said."

Really?  I don't know what to say. 

Just that I'd hate to have to defend that story to the finance folks.
Gabriel Brown
Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/4/2014 | 4:00:53 AM
Re: Good News for Disaster Recovery!
Speaking of disaster recovery, The Great East Japan Earthquake certainly focused the local telecom industry. Japanese operators (and their vendors, such as NEC) are looking to cloud technologies for network resiliency and scalability.

DoCoMo, for example, is working to quickly scale IMS capacity using the cloud to be able to meet the surge in voice calls when disaster strikes next. It gave a good presentation on the topic at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress last October... in 30 minute period it can achieve what previously would have taken months.
Susan Fourtané
Susan Fourtané,
User Rank: Blogger
3/4/2014 | 2:06:00 AM
Re: Good News for Disaster Recovery!

"That's great news for everyone, because disaster recovery and business continuity is something I still don't see getting enough attention and it's so critical."

That was exactly what I was thinking. After so many natural disasters, for instance, a disaster recovery plan should be a top priority. We are living times when network downtime can damage the business badly.

User Rank: Light Sabre
3/3/2014 | 8:23:37 PM
Good News for Disaster Recovery!
"NEC envisions UNC being used for disaster recovery and business continuity, controlling two locations -- a main datacenter and a standby -- from a single network operations point."

That's great news for everyone, because disaster recovery and business continuity is something I still don't see getting enough attention and it's so critical.  The server room flooded at a place I used to work, forcing a network evacuation that thankfully was recovered from surprisingly quickly, but thanks only to sheer luck.  Network downtime was minimal but it could have been far, far worse because there was no disaster recovery or continuation plan.
User Rank: Blogger
3/3/2014 | 2:56:05 PM
Changing landscape
The landscape of tech suppliers is changing and will continue to do so as NFV and SDN get introduced into networks. NEC has been at this for a long time and have been in development wih the likes of Telefonica for years already -- it has mote WAN/telco know-how than people think and a great deal of experience in the datacenter sector.

One to watch for growing influence, IMHO. 
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