& cplSiteName &

The Three Faces of SDN

Mitch Wagner
5/5/2014
50%
50%

As software-defined networking (SDN) becomes more popular, vendors wrestle to promote visions of the technology that put their own products in the best light. That's natural for the lifecycle of any emerging technology -- every vendor needs to be able to say, "We do that."

I separate the vendors into three different buckets. This is not rigorous at all, just a handy mental guide to help think about SDN. The three buckets are the Pure Players, the loosey-goosey school, and the zombie army of the White Walkers. (For a more rigorous definition of SDN, see Defining SDN & NFV.)

Pure players
The pure vision of SDN is built on dumb commodity switches, with all the intelligence running in central controllers, as described by OpenFlow and the Open Networking Foundation. The vendors in this bucket either sell commodity switches, like Big Switch Networks and Pica8 Inc. , or they sell software, as in the case of Cumulus Networks. (See Murray Leads Big Switch Into Bare Metal Battle, Pica8 Adds Muscle to ABC – 'Anybody But Cisco', and Cumulus Intros Network OS.)

The goal for the vendors in this bucket is to make the network more flexible. Carrier networks lag far behind data centers in flexibility and virtualization. Data centers began switching from proprietary to commodity hardware in the 90s, and that technology became standard in the 2000s. Networks are just now beginning that transition. The result is that you have incredibly sophisticated virtual data centers that can be configured on the fly entirely in software. When you configure the network underlying those virtual servers, that requires hardware changes. You need to send out a guy wearing a Game of Thrones T-shirt to move around hardware and plug things in manually.

Changes take weeks. This contributes to a perception that carriers are hard to work with and slow. That's not a good way for a business to be perceived.

The pure vision of SDN puts all those changes in software, which saves on opex. And the hardware is inexpensive and interchangeable, so carriers and enterprises save a lot of money on capex.

More importantly, carriers suddenly become as flexible as cloud providers. They can provision networks in minutes or hours. Combine SDN with NFV, and suddenly carriers can replace CPE with software, and do neat business things like offer 30-day trials of new services. Indeed, SDN (and its cousin NFV) are vital tools to help carriers make the transition to cloud providers. (See Why Verizon Needed a Cloud Reboot, NTT Taps SDN to Enhance Cloud Flexibility, and A Peek Inside CenturyLink's Cloud Expansion.)

The problem is that this kind of transition is a huge task. Data centers took decades to make the transition to open systems. Linux Torvalds released the first version of Linux in 1991. The technology required 20 years to mature, until finally Sun Microsystems, the queen of dotcom servers, fell to competitive pressure and was acquired by Oracle in 2010.

Will the transition to SDN be faster now that open systems in the data center have paved the way? Perhaps, but we're still talking about the better part of a decade at least. Service providers, particularly Tier 1s, have billions of dollars of sunk costs in traditional networking. Only a fool would burn all that down to make a greenfield start. The transition will be gradual and cautious.

However, even in the short term, we'll start seeing niches where SDN is valuable. SDN provides competitive pressure on traditional switch vendors like Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), and Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD).

Next page: The loosey-goosey school

(13)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/10/2014 | 3:39:00 PM
Re: Seems relevant
Oh, I think I see. Companies will save on opex through SDN, but the flexibility will create more demand for services and more demand on the network, leading to greater opex overall. Is that it?
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/10/2014 | 3:36:05 PM
Re: Tightening up the loosey-goosey face of SDN...
How can a company use a DIY approach to a public cloud? The essence of public cloud is to let an outside company (Microsoft, Amazon, etc.) run the cloud service for you. That's the very opposite of the defition of DIY. 

Likewise, you can't have a hybrid model on an all-private cloud. A hybrid cloud is part-public, part-private, whilea  private cloud is all-private. 

What am I missing?
sam masud
50%
50%
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/9/2014 | 1:39:59 PM
Re: Seems relevant
Mitch,

Sorry if my post came across as an oxymoron (or maybe just moronic), but what I meant is that overall opex will increase because SDN will make it easier to tailor more services/apps to more subs. I could be wrong, but that would not be the first time :-)

 
Houman0
50%
50%
Houman0,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/8/2014 | 7:19:13 PM
Re: Tightening up the loosey-goosey face of SDN...
Thanks Mitch!

In fact either private or public clouds can be built using a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) or shrink-wrapped model. Just that the priorities & needs they optimize for are different. Leading enterprises for whom IT is a critical asset (like financials, healthcare, and many manufacturing concerns) often lean toward picking best of breed sub-components and want the flexibility to mix and match to maximize performance, control/auditing & economics for their most essential apps. 

The hybrid cloud certainly emerges in popularity (initially more in theory than practice) as companies want to burst flexibly outside and above the bounds of their private clouds. But again, hybrid "environments" are more a more practical & important consideration today.

And hybrid environments exist everywhere, even in private clouds.  A hybrid environment, for instance, is one in which an enterprise wants to use different hypervisors (say KVM in some racks or datacenters, and ESXi or XEN in others), or has an established VMWare environment in place but also has several OpenStack projects underway in parallel. All of that could (and is) easily be happening in their private cloud.

Using a properly designed overlay virtualization approach, with a policy framework that is agnostic to the network infrastructure, that can be accomplished today and that's pretty cool.

It's definitely a gold star for some of us in the loosey-goosey camp :)
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/8/2014 | 4:32:32 PM
Re: Tightening up the loosey-goosey face of SDN...
Hi, houman - Absolutely, Nuage is doing fine work and they belong on the list. 

I suspect that what you are calling "DIY" and "shrink-wrapped" are what many people call "private" and "public." And there's a  third model too, gaining popularity: Hybrid. 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/8/2014 | 4:25:56 PM
Re: Seems relevant
sam masud - Sorry, I don't understand your question? Isn't "lower opex" the same as "comparatively lower"?
Houman0
50%
50%
Houman0,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/8/2014 | 4:22:08 PM
Tightening up the loosey-goosey face of SDN...
Hi Mitch,

There's more to the "loosey-goosey" face than meets the eye, and let's not forget Nuage Networks in that camp. (see http://ubm.io/1jlBxQG ). Especially to the extent that the flexibility of well-implemented overlays is combined with appropriate underlay awareness, and a common policy framework can be applied across all assets (virtualized or bare metal), in hybrid environments, across different hypervisors, agnostic to the network equipment, then you've actually got something pretty tight & useful... For Westeros & White Walkers alike, by the way...

As for whether overlays are doomed in the long run, lets check back in the long run. Other overlay approaches took a while to get right (VPNs), but have withstood the test of time pretty nicely.  

Underlays & overlays aside, and perhaps more fundamentally, there are 2 basic models for the cloud: The "DIY" model & the "shrink-wrapped" model. They each have merit and will co-exist, serving different needs with different economics & different tradeoffs. Some of the world's largest enterprises indeed do and will deploy both, for different reasons. What remains common, though, is that you want to be able to abstract network capabilities (what the network can do for the application) from how the network does it, and make that all policy-driven and instantaneous.

If you do, then "loosey-goosey" starts to turn "righty-tighty"...

Thanks Mitch!

houman

@modarres
sam masud
50%
50%
sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/7/2014 | 4:33:34 PM
Re: Seems relevant
FakeMitchWagner:


I keep hearing that the payoff with SDN will be lower opex, but given that SDN is the ITization of the network, are we in fact saying opex will be COMPARATIVELY lower with implementation of SDN (as opposed trying to do the same thing with traditional networks--e.g. service chaining)?
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/6/2014 | 6:18:00 PM
Re: Seems relevant
I don't see intelligence residing in the switch or controller as an either/or, but rather a spectrum. 

For the encroachment of IT into telco, how about "datacentrification?"
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/6/2014 | 6:16:00 PM
Re: The Three Faces of SDN
Yes, if SDN does take off we can expect to see it on new areas, while legacy networks continue to be maintained. As long as something is working and fit for purpose there's no sense ripping it out and replacing, even if the new thing is better. 
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
More Blogs from Column
NFV feels like it's going nowhere fast, suggests Napatech's Dan Joe Barry.
The NG-PON2 standard is the key to the future of ultra-broadband, believes Calix's Alan DiCicco.
Amazing new 5G innovations are coming below 6GHz -- it's not just about mmWave.
5G is about more than just faster mobile broadband, notes Tom Sawanobori, SVP and chief technology officer at the CTIA.
What companies should glean from network traffic patterns during the Olympic Games in Rio.
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
NEXT COURSE
Friday, September 30, 1:00PM EDT
Gigabit & the Great Migration
Robert Howald, Vice President, Network Architecture, Comcast
UPCOMING COURSE SCHEDULE
Wednesday, October 5, 1:00PM EDT
Gigabit & Smart Cities
Joe Kochan, COO & Co-Founder, US Ignite
Friday, October 7, 1:00PM EDT
Gigabit & DOCSIS 3.1
Ty Pearman, Director, Access Architecture, Comcast
Wednesday, October 19, 1:00PM EDT
Securing a Virtual World
Rita Marty, Executive Director, Mobility and Cloud Security, Chief Security Office, AT&T
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink: SDN/NFV Pose New Interconnection Possibilities

9|28|16   |   04:37   |   (0) comments


Network operators should develop new APIs and business processes for reselling virtual assets to each other, says CenturyLink's Bill Walker. That will enable them to build digital business portfolios that help them avoid becoming commodity transport providers.
LRTV Interviews
Level 3: Overcoming Terror of Being Supplier, Integrator & Developer

9|28|16   |     |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver, Travis Ewert of Level 3 Communications said there is terror in becoming supplier, integrator and developer, but it can be overcome and be cost effective.
LRTV Custom TV
Introducing IoT World News

9|27|16   |   01:43   |   (0) comments


Self-driving cars, medical sensors, smart cities... and refrigerators. In order to address the huge scope of IoT, KNect365 has created a unique online community that will help businesses to understand and monetize the opportunities that live within the IoT market. We look forward to welcoming you to IoT World News -- your gateway to a better connected future.
LRTV Interviews
AT&T: Re-usable Functions Next NFV Key

9|27|16   |   06:03   |   (0) comments


The next generation of NFV has to break functions down into re-usable software chunks, making everything much more cloud-like.
LRTV Interviews
Masergy on Security: Attackers Gaining Upper Hand

9|27|16   |   5:10   |   (2) comments


At Light Reading's NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver, Ray Watson, vice president of Global Technology at Masergy, says that because of the growth in virtualization, the threat landscape is shifting in favor of the attackers. As a result, service providers need to think beyond just defending the perimeter and take a more holistic approach to security.
LRTV Interviews
Verizon Takes Next Step on Biz Virtualization Journey

9|26|16   |   4:38   |   (2) comments


At September's NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver, Light Reading sat down with Victoria Lonker, director of Product and New Business Innovation at Verizon, to chat about where the carrier is with delivering virtualized services to business customers.
LRTV Interviews
Global Services: The $40B Face-Off

9|26|16   |   05:53   |   (1) comment


More service providers than ever before are battling it out to win a slice of what is now a $40 billion global communications services pie, explains Ovum Principal Analyst David Molony.
LRTV Documentaries
MEC Congress: The Key Takeaways

9|22|16   |   03:25   |   (3) comments


Three key takeaways from the Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) Congress in Munich, Germany.
Wagner’s Ring
Time to Shut Up About 'Dumb Pipes'

9|22|16   |     |   (12) comments


Service providers can't compete with OTT players. It just isn't in their DNA. Instead, service providers need to embrace what they're good at -- providing reliable, secure connectivity.
Wagner’s Ring
Keeping Your Tech Career Going After 50

9|21|16   |     |   (13) comments


How do you keep your career moving forward when you're past the half-century mark?
LRTV Interviews
Peering Into the Digital Future

9|20|16   |   04:25   |   (0) comments


Nick Thomas, practice leader of digital media at Ovum, talks about how digital transformation in the technology, media and telecom sectors will enable the development of a new range of applications and services for enterprises and consumers and how the upcoming Digital Futures event in London will examine ...
LRTV Custom TV
Napatech Tackles NFV's Major Challenge

9|7|16   |   08:42   |   (0) comments


One of the main challenges for network operators introducing NFV is to combine performance and flexibility in a cost-effective way, but there is a solution, explains Napatech's Dan Joe Barry.
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
Verizon CFO: Eat Our (Fixed) 5G Dust!
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 9/22/2016
WiCipedia: The Women Helping Women Edition
Eryn Leavens, Special Features & Copy Editor, 9/23/2016
Eurobites: Telefónica Taps Juniper for Network Security
Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, 9/26/2016
Open Source Getting on My Nerves
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 9/26/2016
Telstra Sees Quadrupled Data Capacity by 2020
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 9/28/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders and UXP Systems CEO Gemini Waghmare discuss the strategic importance of digital identity for operators in the midst of transformation.
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
Animals with Phones
There's Nothing Like Missing a Full Minute of Pokémon Go Click Here
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.