After nearly a year since he first introduced the term "Service Provider Software-Defined Networking," Ericsson CTO Ulf Ewaldsson is ready to provide an update on the Swedish vendor's vision of the programmable wide area network (WAN) and what it will mean for OSS platforms.(See Ericsson CTO: Let's Redefine SDN and OSS Gets Sexy at ESDN.)
Speaking to Light Reading on the sidelines of the recent GigaOM Structure Europe conference in London, Ewaldsson said Ericsson AB has moved beyond crafting a vision, which was a high-level view about making networks more relevant, and started demonstrating some of the technologies and use cases for Service Provider SDN. (See Service Provider SDN Gets Real.)
"We've demonstrated service chaining and a number of different opportunities with customers that can be unleashed by being able to program the network," he said. What remains to be done, he says, is "to connect into real big clouds with this kind of technology."
That blending of carrier and cloud network functionality is some way off being a reality, however.
"What we try to do with Service Provider SDN is to provide opportunities for the networks inside the cloud… to be connected to the WAN and let the WAN be controlled from applications in the cloud, something that is totally impossible today," he said.
At the heart of Service Provider SDN is software and a major transformation of the OSS layer, which would morph in its role to include control over the network in addition to operations and maintenance.
"It's of course the holy grail for many companies," he said. "Any large player in the cloud space will say that they are the ones building the best controllers and creating the best abstraction and being able to view the resources in the cloud in the best possible way. We're working beyond that… creating a good abstraction of the entire network in terms of the resources that are available in order to start software-controlling the network."
The OSS can evolve to become a control plane for the entire network, he explained.
However, he pointed out how this has been slightly misinterpreted as being a centralized control point. Rather, the OSS software will be distributed across all the elements in the network, such as in radio basestations or routers or in datacenter equipment, he said. The network elements would house software that is part of the OSS system, he explained, while there would also be a more centralized management capability.
"That's different from a datacenter, where someone says 'I'll sell you an SDN controller,' and what happens is a piece of hardware sits somewhere in the datacenter," he said. "That's not the vision that we have of how this will be realized."
Ericsson's Telcordia assets will play an important role in this OSS transformation, said Ewaldsson. "When it comes to the migration of the OSS system into becoming the SDN layer, if you will, we're very happy we were able to acquire a very competent team in Telcordia."
Indeed, Ericsson's existing OSS assets will be the foundation for the vendor's Cloud System, a cloud management and orchestration stack that is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2014, according to Caroline Chappell, a senior analyst at Heavy Reading .
The Swedish vendor, of course, isn't the only telecom equipment vendor with this kind of vision for SDN in carrier networks, notes Chappell. In her new report, "Managing the Virtualized Network: How SDN and NFV Will Change OSS," she puts Ericsson, along with Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems Inc., and Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) in the category of "big picture SDN and NFV management vendors." (See SDN & NFV to Shake Up Operator OSS Market, Heavy Reading Finds.)
And Ericsson isn't necessarily leading that vendor pack. "Ericsson is being very cautious about this," says Chappell. "They're saying, 'We've got to get this right.'"
Meanwhile, Ericsson will carry on evangelizing about Service Provider SDN because the vendor sees an opportunity for growth. "We are very optimistic around the potential of the industry to grow," he said. "Our idea of growth is that the networks become more relevant."
— Michelle Donegan, contributing editor, special to Light Reading