SDN's Pragmatic Side
I moderated a TelcoTV panel Thursday that included two rural carriers, Great Plains Communications Inc. and TDS Telecom , both of which are interested in SDN for things like recovering from fiber cuts or tracking VLAN performance.
It's a very optical-layer point of view, one that I'm sure doesn't match some definitions of SDN. Think of it as a formative, primordial-soup version of SDN, a perspective on what the stuff can do now, without waiting for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and other standards groups to nail down their SDN specifics. (See also: the Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) setup for traffic management.)
VLANs, for example, don't typically have a redundant backup, so it's great to be able to automatically reroute them in software, said John Greene, Great Plains' chief network engineer. His organization has had that happen several times after fiber cuts.
I didn't ask how often fiber cuts happen. But considering Great Plains' network spans Nebraska, it's probably not that convenient to drive out to a site to fix anything. The more they can do in software, the better. Along similar lines, Greene sees SDN being useful at the intersections between optical networks.
TDS hasn't begun working with anything it calls SDN yet, but Ken Paker, vice president of network services, sees a lot of promise in using it to simplify network management. Carriers' internal use cases will emerge first, which will give them the comfort level to use SDN aggressively as customers' use cases start to emerge, he said.
Paker also made the point that SDN reflects the direction that a carrier's operations should be heading in. Tasks such as provisioning are moving closer to being IT functions rather than cables-and-engineering work. (TDS's CEO, Dave Wittwer, brought up the same point during his Friday keynote.) It sounds a lot like the theme of Bridging the Chasm that Light Reading has been tracking.
SDN wasn't a huge topic at TelcoTV, a reflection of attendees' priorities. Small telcos aren't thinking about things like security-layer programmability. But it's good to know that the concepts behind SDN are already doing somebody some good.
— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading