From a business and technical perspective, SDN and NFV have now been proven: It is no longer a question of whether SDN and NFV will be deployed, but when and how.
The early adopters of these technologies have proven that the business case is sound and that the technology is viable. Google was one of the very first to deploy a global wide area network (WAN) using SDN in 2012, while Deutsche Telekom deployed SDN and NFV in its network in Croatia in 2013. (See Google: SDN Works for Us and Deutsche Telekom: A Software-Defined Operator.)
Nevertheless, there is broad agreement that the next focus area for SDN and NFV must be management. The objective of SDN and NFV is to provide agility and flexibility in introducing new services, but these services, once introduced, also need to be managed.
I intend to explore the challenges of managing and securing SDN and NFV in a series of blogs that will look at different aspects of the management and security challenges facing those operators deploying SDN and NFV. The blogs are intended to act as catalysts for open discussion on how best to move forward.
Management of telecom networks is already a challenge, with explosive traffic growth driven by OTT content consumed on highly mobile devices in an unpredictable fashion. The management solutions that are in place have been slow to adapt to this reality, which is compounded by the fact that the static management practices and systems that are in place are not well suited to the dynamic and bursty nature of Ethernet/IP networks.
These are already challenges that telecom carriers are trying to address, but when we also add the challenge of managing virtual functions that can be instantiated and moved anywhere in the network, then it is enough to make your head spin!
It is therefore clear that management of SDN and NFV networks needs to be addressed to assure successful mass deployment of these technologies. Google, amongst others, has called for industry consensus on topology models and interfaces to ensure rapid development and interoperability of management solutions. This could prove to be the most valuable contribution of SDN/NFV to the industry. Without them, it is hard to see how the vision of policy-driven, real-time management, which is a central part of current SDN and NFV concepts, can be realized. (See Google to Open Key Network Models for Industry Comment, Standardization.)
However, another important aspect of managing SDN and NFV will be understanding the fundamentals of managing Ethernet and IP networks in the face of explosive OTT traffic. This is an issue in any case but will be critical to the success of SDN and NFV deployments.
In forthcoming blogs I will be taking a closer look at the issues briefly outlined above. The focus will be on establishing what is needed to assure efficient management and security of SDN and NFV networks. Rather than looking at abstract topology models and interface alternatives, which I am sure will be debated by many others, I will focus on the challenges that are inherent in managing Ethernet and IP, whether in a virtualized environment or not.
One of the key challenges is performance, and the ability to assure reliable, real-time data for management and analytics. This is already a concern today and will be no less of a concern when virtualizing the network. In fact, quite the contrary!
Only by understanding these challenges and addressing them will it be possible for SDN and NFV to successfully achieve mass adoption.
In my next blog, I will take a closer look at the challenges carriers are facing in managing networks that are carrying increasing volumes of OTT traffic, and what can be done to address it.
Then I will look at how Ethernet and IP networks are managed today and how this is an issue for SDN and NFV. This will be followed by an introduction to network appliances and how they can be used in a more strategic manner to provide the real-time insight that SDN and NFV will need to operate in an OTT-dominated world.
I will then look at the performance issues being faced today, how they are being addressed and how this affects SDN and NFV.
— Dan Joe Barry, VP, Marketing, Napatech