SDN architectures

Money, Time Won't Replace Need for SDN Testing

The brouhaha over software-defined networking (SDN) is sounding less like much ado about nothing as dollars continue to flow toward companies with plans for SDN buildout using OpenFlow.

Several funding deals have happened in just the past year. In August 2012, PLUMgrid announced it had raised $10.7 million in funding to deliver SDN as software over standard silicon, which serves as a platform for a virtualized network. In June 2013, Affirmed Networks announced that it received $51 million in funding to develop its range of network functions virtualization (NFV) solutions. Thus far, the company has raised at least $117 million.

The funding boon continued in February 2013, as Big Switch Networks received $6.5 million in venture funding to add to the $38.8 million the company has raised since 2011. The company is using the money to further its Open SDN platform, an OpenFlow switch fabric that can run on bare metal switches and hypervisor virtual switches.

Also announcing SDN projects were vendors Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent. In April 2012, Cisco announced that it is funding and plans to absorb Insieme, which is developing an SDN network that's built to complement Cisco's existing products. Cisco has already invested $100 million and is capping its investment at $750 million. In January 2013, Alcatel-Lucent announced its investment in Nuage Networks, which is focused on the scalability and automated service provisioning issues of cloud providers that offer hybrid multi-tenant cloud services.

As excitement over SDN and its possibilities continues to mount, however, testing of SDN networks becomes even more important. As shown in the latest Heavy Reading Insider, "SDN & OpenFlow Testing: Who's Doing What," the only way to ensure that SDN reaches its full potential is through strenuous and continuous testing of the networks.

This report examines the test and measurement market for SDN and OpenFlow. It examines the verticals that are the most lucrative for SDN test and measurement, and discusses drivers and challenges in the industry. It includes a comparative analysis of solutions available, examines the geographic landscape of the market, and details trends that will likely occur in the industry over the next 18-24 months.

But it's not just money that's underscoring the hope that operators and vendors are placing on SDN. Already in its very short lifespan, SDN has spurred the creation of the OpenDaylight Project, a community-led and industry-supported open-source framework aimed at accelerating adoption of SDN. Companies signed up for the project include Big Switch Networks, Brocade, Cisco, Citrix, Ericsson, IBM, Juniper Networks, Microsoft, NEC, Red Hat, and VMware -- all of which are donating software and engineering resources for the open-source framework.

Nevertheless, just because operators and vendors are willing to spend money and time on a new venture doesn't mean that it will cure all their ills. Already, some companies have rebranded existing products as "SDN-friendly," despite a lack of clear product evolution. Moreover, operators will be reluctant to move customers onto SDN networks until they're tested and proven capable of handling traffic and preventing churn.

— Denise Culver, Research Analyst, Heavy Reading Insider

"SDN & OpenFlow Testing: Who's Doing What," a 16-page report, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Heavy Reading Insider, priced at $1,595. This report is available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/insider.

Vishnu Goel 12/31/2013 | 5:09:49 AM
SDN testing challenges are similar,not identical. The challenges to test the SDN based elements in the network remain the same: To effectively and efficiently manage the different layers,and also ensure Quality at different phases of Rollout.When the scenario becomes dynamic,the demand on T&M companies becomes more.Also there is increasingly felt if we can have a more "malleable" platform where IP and RF related functions could merge it may aid SDN testing even more.This decade the realignment & repositioning of T&M companies is happening and we are sure innovation will lead to exciting development.Vishnu Goel T&M +919810101238

paul_to 11/14/2013 | 12:14:54 PM
Software Defined Testing? Hi Carol,

Great article and report!

It's definitely exciting time in the "test and measurement" industry. The whole SDN and "Everything Virtualized" trend brings many challenges and I think huge opportunities to the testing industry.

With everyting virtualized, PREDICTABILITY is a real issue. An end-to-end Service Chain crosses many technology and vendor boundaries, from virtual compute, storage, to virtualized network functions, to overlay/underlay.  It is a long and complex chain of factors, any of which can significantly impact end-to-end SLA.

We are seeing that even minor changes in one part of the chain could have unexpected impact of the whole chain. "Virtual" performance tuning is complex and not well understood. Moreover, when virtual services are dynamically provisioned and reprovisioned continuously - being able to predict how changes or addition of new services impact of the overall SLA is of paramount importance.

At the same time, I can see the same "Software Defined" concept applies to the test industry, where test tools and test methodologies can plug-in to higher orchestration framework - kind of like "Testing as a Virtual Network Function".  This allows not just traditional pre-deployment testing, but basically continuous validating of performance and scale as these virtualized services / service chains are dynamically provisioned and changed.  I think PREDICTABILITY will be a key enabler for AGILITY.

Another interesting opportunity for Software Defined Testing is also software QA & regression testing, as mentioned by @jhodgesk1s. When virtualized test tools and functions can be orchestrated with software QA & regression test systems to automate testing, it has been shown to signifiantly improve software engineering efficiency and time-to-market. We do this in our own development shop and we are seeing 10X improvement in QA cycles.

It's exciting time and we're definitely enjoying the ride!

Paul To

Director, SDN & Cloud

Spirent Communications
jhodgesk1s 11/14/2013 | 11:03:38 AM
Re: Isn't testing always a requirement? Carol, one of the new testing requirements I anticipate is the need to perform regression testing of new virtualized applications with non-virtualized telecom network functions.
Carol Wilson 11/13/2013 | 2:55:01 PM
Isn't testing always a requirement? New technology deployments always require rigorous testing - I wonder what new challenges SDN and virtualized netweorks and network functions are going to pose. 
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