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NTT Taps SDN to Enhance Cloud Flexibility

Mitch Wagner

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Open Networking Summit (ONS) 2014 -- In a market where service providers are in the very early stages of implementing SDN, NTT stands out, since it's already using an SDN overlay to connect 12 cloud data centers on three continents.

And it's still warming up, with just 5% to 10% of its network running SDN. (See Defining SDN & NFV.)

Yukio Ito, senior vice president for service infrastructure at NTT Group (NYSE: NTT), described during an ONS plenary how NTT is implementing an overlay network to reduce management overhead and opex. The SDN overlay connects the data centers used in NTT's two-year-old enterprise cloud service, which NTT calls… (wait for it)… "Enterprise Cloud." (See NTT Com, Toshiba Forge Global Cloud Alliance.)

NTT has faced operating difficulties typical for cloud providers. Its customers could quickly spin up new virtual machines and clusters, but making changes to the network was laborious, requiring manual configuration. Like other cloud providers, NTT turned to SDN for a solution. "In our enterprise cloud, we got rid of cost structures and human error due to that process," Ito said. (See AT&T Reveals Audacious SDN Plans.)

NTT's Ito: Cutting costs and improving efficiencies in the WAN with SDN.
NTT's Ito: Cutting costs and improving efficiencies in the WAN with SDN.

The OpenFlow protocol has also proved useful in helping customers configure VPNs, noted the NTT executive. "It might just be a small part of the whole network, but this is a step in making our network more efficient," he said.

In addition to opex savings, NTT's SDN deployment allows NTT to use multiple vendors for networking, avoid redundant deployment, simplify system cooperation, and shorten time-to-market, Ito said.

For the future, NTT is looking to deploy network functions virtualization (NFV) for greater efficiency. The service provider is also looking to expand SDN to its entire network. (See NTT Aims Innovation Efforts at US Enterprises.)

The SDN overlay network connecting 12 data centers is part of NTT's larger MPLS-based network of 156 data centers in 190 countries, NTT spokesman Christopher Davis told me after Ito's presentation. SDN is also being used internally, inside cloud data centers.

SDN provides NTT and its customers with automated tools. For example, SDN lets customers throttle bandwidth themselves. A customer running a backup can crank up its bandwidth, and then throttle it back down when the backup is complete and the higher bandwidth is no longer needed, Davis explained. (See NTT Advances SDN.)

SDN also allows customers to retain their existing IP addresses when migrating from their own data centers to NTT's clouds, he added.

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

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Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
3/10/2014 | 8:52:44 PM
Re: NTT definitely a pioneer on this front
I've been hearing that one big obstacle to SDN deployment is a shortage of big customer deployments. It's the classic Catch-22 of emerging technology. NTT is a great exception to this rule.
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson
3/10/2014 | 10:50:43 AM
NTT definitely a pioneer on this front
Doug Junkins of NTT America is going to be discussing this at our Big Telecom Event. NTT has done a lot of internal development to make SDN work and it will be interesting to hear about that and whether others face a similar challenge. 
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