SDN architectures

SoftCOM: Huawei's Take on SDN

AMSTERDAM -- Broadband World Forum -- It's been quite the week for telco-related software-defined networking (SDN) proclamations in the Dutch capital.

First Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) called for a new definition of SDN, dubbed Service Provider SDN, to suit the carrier world. (See The Lowdown on Service Provider SDN and Ericsson CTO: Let's Redefine SDN.)

Then Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. joined in with a vision it calls SoftCOM.

While the Chinese vendor has not engaged in full-blown media outreach about its take on SDN, it was providing some guidance on a display screen on the Broadband World Forum show floor.

SoftCOM is the umbrella term for its vision of the next-generation wide area network architecture, using the marketing phrase: "Network Infrastructure -- from All IP to All IT."

And although the vendor has already announced a "virtual routing platform (VRP) product" that "features a "centralized control plane and software-defined forwarding plane, enabling operators to build a SDN-ready network," Huawei is making it quite clear that its SoftCOM vision is something that will be developed during the next five years.

The key to Huawei's approach is to develop "software-defined functionality on standardized hardware" plus "open API-enabled network transformation and new service introduction at IT speed."

While the development of software-based network applications that could be hosted centrally is without doubt a tough task in itself, Huawei is equally focused on ensuring that the underlying standardized hardware is up to snuff for carrier networks.

Huawei contends that, currently, IT hardware platforms are not reliable or robust enough for service provider networks. According to sources in Amsterdam this week, the vendor's executives told attendees at an analyst briefing day held last Monday that standard IT platforms were only three-nines reliable and would therefore need to become far more robust before being considered as key carrier network elements (i.e. as replacements for routers/switches).

Of course, it's only natural that every major telecom infrastructure vendor will have a team of developers working on the potential for wide area network virtualization. Then, each vendor will need to make a risk assessment about quite how enthusiastic they should be about helping network operators revamp their traditional network architectures. (See Interoute's SDN Dream.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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