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'Job Security' Biggest SDN Security Challenge

Mitch Wagner
11/14/2014
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Network virtualization requires deep cultural shifts for carriers, changes that executives, managers, and staff may find it difficult to keep up with, said Dan Pitt, executive director of the Open Networking Foundation, at a panel at Light Reading's Next-Generation Network Components events in Santa Clara, Calif., last week.

Network rules are changing, but carriers often don't keep up. For example, network operators are still obsessed with achieving five nines of reliability for their equipment, when the important thing is five nines for the service. That's what hypercloud providers like Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Facebook do -- they expect individual components to fail regularly, and build in redundancy so the whole service remains up and accessible, Pitt said.

Network operators unable to make the shift to the new way of doing things will find their jobs at risk, Pitt said.

"The biggest security challenge in SDN and NFV is job security," he said.

Dan Pitt, Open Networking Foundation; Charlene Marini, ARM; Peter Marek, Advantech; Dan Nilsson, Tieto; and Heavy Reading analyst Simon Stanley (l-r) discuss the issues.
Dan Pitt, Open Networking Foundation; Charlene Marini, ARM; Peter Marek, Advantech; Dan Nilsson, Tieto; and Heavy Reading analyst Simon Stanley (l-r) discuss the issues.

Pitt's message isn't new, but it's important and bears repeating. I discussed it with him a bit after the panel. Traditional network management means managing hardware, rolling trucks and installing equipment on-site. Virtual networks requires configuring software -- more precisely, managing the code that manages the networks. Managing that code requires familiarity with IT tools such as NETCONF and Yang, while traditional network management software relied on command-line interfaces.

That's a big change for network operators. The Open Networking Foundation , an SDN advocacy group, is looking to ease the transition with a skills certification program. (See ONF to Announce SDN Skills Certification Program.)

SDN and NFV face other challenges. Building ecosystems will prove challenging, said Dan Nilsson, director of pre-sales and business development at Tieto Corp. These ecosystems need to include to deliver service level agreements, testing and management layers.

Scaling out compute elements and making sure packets get delivered where they should to the right virtual machine will be another challenge, said Peter Marek, senior director of x86 solutions at Advantech Co. Ltd. "That's more than generic switching silicon can do," he said. A single 100Gbit/s pipe might contain a million flows.

"The need for speed is unbroken," Marek said. Network speed will double and triple over the next several years.


Learn more about learning more at our skills and training channel.


Maintaining industry momentum will be another challenge, added Charlene Marini, vice president, embedded segments, ARM Ltd. . The previous 18 months to two years has seen an explosion of proofs-of-concept and discussion, and they'll need to keep moving.

A year ago, operators thought commercial deployment was six months away. Now it's still not there. Full-scale deployments will take time, Nilsson said.

Going up the hype curve happens fast, but getting real products out there is slower, added Pitt. Traditional vendors will move as slowly as possible to preserve their investments.

Previously: ONF Expands OpenFlow Compliance Testing.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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TomNolle
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TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2014 | 10:41:37 AM
Don't Minimize the Challenges
It's too facile to say that progress on something like SDN or NFV is slowed by some kind of personal weakness on the part of the adopters.  The fact is that ALL buyers of technology have a mandate to prove benefits and manage risks.  It's easy for those trying to sell something (directly or indirectly) to say that the buyer has to step up and adopt, but it's incumbent on the seller to prove the benefits overall.  Until the SDN world accepts that, they'll be under-shooting their expectations.

The five-nines comparison between Google or Facebook and a carrier is just plain silly.  A search or Facebook page can be simply redisplayed if something goes awry.  You can't easily restart or reroute a trunk or process that's supporting ten thousand conversations.  You need to manage availability and MTTR for the needs of the service.
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2014 | 12:40:37 PM
Re: Don't Minimize the Challenges
 

I think that the notion that the customer is stupid works very badly in trying to get people to buy your stuff.  :)

I think mostly these folks have no idea what it is to sit on the other side.  I would like to know how many time Dan Pitt has sat there at 3AM on a Saturday Morning trying to figure out what failed.

seven

 
TomNolle
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TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2014 | 12:47:37 PM
Re: Don't Minimize the Challenges
I had a similar question, Seven!  I'd be the last person to say that telcos and enterprise network planners weren't concerned about their jobs or uncomfortable with change.  So is everyone, including heads of international forums!

In the last three months I've been working with people trying to make the business case for SDN and NFV.  In virtually every case, they've been hampered by the fact that they need something specific--usually information on operations impact or reliability/servicability--that the vendors have not provided them.  In many cases, where vendors have participated in proof-of-concept or lab trials, the trials have failed to cover all of the areas that had to be validated (and costed out) for a project plan to be approved.  Yet in many of these cases, the vendors are telling the potential buyers that they need to be less hidebound.
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2014 | 1:10:21 PM
Re: Don't Minimize the Challenges
 

Tom,

My last corporate gig was a stint running a small SaaS Mail Service.  I found that I thought a LOT differently about issues in new product deployment after I had to deal with 24/7/365 activity.  Heck, I also ran development for our products and I changed the balance point of a lot of things.

I think the thing that bringing in new technologies means to new to the bulk of a company is change.  When we deployed FiOS with Verizon, they were having to use 5 - 10 thousand people to do the work.  That doesn't count the folks that were operating FiOS.  It is not easy to change that many people.  We had many, many calls about the rollout.  Often times with all our problems we were nowhere even on the agenda as they had to work out issues between themselves.

seven

 
TomNolle
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TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2014 | 1:23:25 PM
Re: Don't Minimize the Challenges
I hear you, Seven.  I did a consulting gig for an enterprise in the early days of SNA-over-IP, and this client was one of the brave first to go with it.  It created a failure the magnitude of which I had never seen before or since, one where over ten thousand health-care terminals were down hard for days at a time.  I was brought in to find the problem, get it fixed, and in the words of the CIO "Kill whoever is responsible".  The whole problem was caused because an inside guy decided to rely on vendor representations that "a lot of companies did this successfully" without looking into whether that was really true, or into what exactly they did.  Needless to say, that decision-maker was gone in a week.  Those who advocate bold moves into new technologies should look the guy up and see how HE would feel about that!
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
11/14/2014 | 1:37:13 PM
Re: Don't Minimize the Challenges
Tom, I don't think Dan is saying SDN adoption is slowed by network operators. I think he's saying it's happening and it threatens' operators' careers. 

As for Google and Facebook simply being able to reload pages that fail to come up -- how often does that happen? I can't remember it ever happpening. Reddit sometimes fails to load for me, but Google and Faecbook are always there. Even on Twitter, the "fail whale" hasn't shown up in a long, long time. 
TomNolle
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TomNolle,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2014 | 1:50:51 PM
Re: Don't Minimize the Challenges
You can load-balance transactions like clicks onto an alternate server without the user even knowing it, though clicking again is always an option and most aren't aware of the fact they had to do it--it's second nature.  Replacing a failed trunk or device is another matter.

I don't think SDN threatens people's careers either, except perhaps at the equipment vendor level.  Where you might see job losses would be where SDN reduced opex, which is the same as saying "reduced headcount".  You might find people who knew (for example) Cisco routers and were threatened by SDN, but more of them would be working at Cisco than working at a network operator.

As far as SDN happening, it's a statistically insignificant portion of current capex.  Yes we have trials and some applications, but the money is being spent elsewhere for now.  Which is why I think SDN supporters should be looking at the benefit and risk analysis and figuring out why that is.
Atlantis-dude
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Atlantis-dude,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2014 | 3:51:09 PM
Besides jobs
how much does it affect the business model of the carriers?
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/14/2014 | 5:08:55 PM
The challenge is...
Operators need to do both -- be able to roll trucks and maintain five9s of service AND deploy fault-tolerant services where possible. Newer OTT players don't need to bother with the truck rolls, so they're inherently more nimble about development.

Maybe someday when the network is truly distributed (hardware is all customer owned and mobile?) then operators wont need to worry about the truck rolls so much....
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
11/16/2014 | 12:16:21 AM
Re: Don't Minimize the Challenges
@seven: It really highlights the necessity of constant uptime.

So many SaaS providers and the like like to brag things like "99.5% uptime!"  Well, that means that you have no service for 43 hours and 48 minutes every year.  When is that downtime?  When is that maintenance?  And how does this work with business needs?
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