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SDN architectures

Ethernet Europe: Top 10 Takeaways

FRANKFURT -- Ethernet Europe 2013 -- The advance program for this year's Ethernet Europe, which has attracted more than 300 attendees to Marriott Frankfurt Hotel on Day 1, made it quite clear that software-defined networking (SDN) was going to be discussed and debated at the event just as much as the more traditional Carrier Ethernet topics.

So here are the 10 key issues that captured my attention during the conference sessions, and on the show floor, during the first day's proceedings.

  • Get ready for Bandwidth-on-Demand: It's clear from a number of presentations, including those from TeliaSonera International Carrier (TIC) and the event's host, Heavy Reading senior analyst Stan Hubbard (who has many insights into service provider plans), that dynamic bandwidth provisioning is going to feature strongly in carrier portfolios very soon. While such services already exist, they have tended to be based on technology from a single supplier: The difference now, according to presenters and attendees here, is that the industry is closing in on a common set of tools for the provision of bandwidth-on-demand services in multi-vendor networks.

  • The MEF gets cloudy: The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) is preparing an "earth-shattering" announcement regarding Carrier Ethernet 2.0 and cloud services in the near future. This is likely to be very closely related to the bandwidth-on-demand trend, as service providers figure how they can provide flexible Ethernet services that can be turned up and down to match the way in which their enterprise users use cloud-based resources and applications.

  • SDN isn't a BGP killer: Nicolas "Nico" Fischbach, director of Network Platform & Strategy and Architecture at Colt Technology Services Group Ltd., put some minds at rest about the potential impact of SDN. "People have been saying there will be no BGP [border gateway protocol] and that IP networks as we know them will go away. That is NUTS!" he proclaimed. "BGP will never go away. But it may be combined with something else, possible OpenFlow but there are lots of options," added the Colt man. Fischbach is a man worth listening to, as Colt has been checking out SDN use cases to figure out any potential advantages and is very active in the network functions virtualization (NFV) Industry Specifications Group formed in late 2012 under the auspices of European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). (See Carriers Peer Into Virtual World.)

  • Does OpenFlow have a shelf life? Fischbach soon got into his stride once he was up on stage, questioning whether SDN's poster-child protocol OpenFlow will be around for long. "I'm not sure about the future of OpenFlow as a protocol. I'm not sure it's the SDN Holy Grail." Plenty of speakers, including Rafael Francis from Cyan Inc., noted that there are other tools that will be utilized in SDN architectures.

  • Where are the carrier class OpenFlow products? There was no stopping the day's most compelling speaker. Fischbach told conference delegates that while there is plenty of market noise around OpenFlow products, "carrier-class OpenFlow switches are not GA [generally available]." That sounds like an invitation for some vendors to at least try to prove him wrong…

  • Vendors have been distracted by SDN: Fischbach again. Colt's new network architecture includes an integrated packet/optical core, which isn't quite fully deployed yet because the vendor community is lagging behind its timelines by about two years. SDN has "caused chaos… [vendors] have jumped on the bandwagon and change their positioning" to ensure they have a SDN story.

  • Major carriers are serious about NFV: Network functions virtualization (NFV) isn't just something the ETSI group's members are meeting and talking about – they're checking out whether dedicated telecom products with the traditional integrated hardware/software combination can be replaced with a combination of centralized applications, virtualization software and distributed off-the-shelf servers. And according to Karl-Heinz Nenner, senior architect at Deutsche Telekom AG, the carriers are finding that existing server technology is robust enough for deployment in an NFV architecture.

  • SDN + CE 2.0 is the future: Heavy Reading's Stan Hubbard has seen the future of Carrier Ethernet services and, if SDN capabilities are indeed introduced into carrier networks alongside the enhanced management capabilities provided by Carrier Ethernet 2.0 specifications, users will be offered network-as-a-service options within a few years. CE 2.0 specifications are already enhancing performance management capabilities, added Hubbard.

  • Say hello to 'Anywhereization': We're not sure how hot this term, being used extensively by the TeliaSonera International Carrier (TIC) team, will be, but it encapsulates what all the major operators are seeing and having to deal with – that customers are demanding flexible, increasingly high-bandwidth services anywhere, any time and on any device. The days of fixed rate services over point-to-point connections are disappearing…

  • He called himself 'The Dude': Tata Communications Ltd. senior director and head of Ethernet Product Management, Henry Bohannon, has made the Light Reading team very happy. "My favorite movie of all time is The Big Lebowski," he told me Tuesday afternoon. We believe he had a rug and it really tied his room together.

    — Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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    Ray Le Maistre 4/17/2013 | 11:06:20 AM
    re: Ethernet Europe: Top 10 Takeaways Alex - great post.-á

    And this is what the service providers participating in the NFV group are exploring right now -- they want to figure out if the reality can match the perceived potential.-á

    You are totally right to be skeptical and my sense is that the operators are very wary of getting carried along without drilling deep into the potential and use cases.

    There are clearly some applications/functions that are being explored initially, particularly related to mobile packet core functions.
    Deutsche Telekom provided an update on NFV at this week's Ethernet Europe in Frankfurt and I will be reporting on that update shortly.-á
    Alex_Fduch 4/17/2013 | 2:16:43 PM
    re: Ethernet Europe: Top 10 Takeaways -áOne more point.
    People forgot that in the SW world virtualization became a booming trend in Data Centers only after Intel and AMD added vitrualization support in their CPUs, or in other terms - in Hardware! Before that virtualization was slow and people would never use it for high performance apps, they deployed dedicated HW servers for that - one server for one application.

    So, IMHO, that means NFV will become comparable with existing networking HW in scalability, performance and efficiency when CPU/NICs/Server chip sets vendors will add NPU functions in their products.
    PhilGr 4/17/2013 | 7:03:10 PM
    re: Ethernet Europe: Top 10 Takeaways Sorry - got to call BS on that. Bandwidth on demand services have been available for longer than Infinera has been in business - just look at the history of ATM, RSVP and MPLS-TE. The capabilities have evolved over time. Schlumberger launched a service back in 2004 and I'd guess that wasn't the first. -á -á -á
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