Welcome!

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo, @DXWorldExpo

SDN Journal: Article

Software-Defined Networking: The Promise and the Reality

Building simpler networks that, with the help of virtualization, are more intelligent and cost-effective

The enterprise is increasingly resorting to cloud services for many applications ranging from efficient application hosting or low-cost backup and archiving to cloud data centers. Typically, enterprise networks are interconnected to the Cloud over low speed IP networks that are limited in capacity and flexibility.

Over the next few years, however, enterprises will leverage the cloud for larger amounts of storage as they adopt Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). This in turn compels the need for a more flexible and intelligent network capable of dynamically responding to rapidly changing IT demands, without bottlenecks, security vulnerabilities or data loss.

The impact of the cloud necessitates that Enterprise IT provide more focus on server-server connectivity rather than primarily supporting client-server interactions. This shift will also affect major service providers who must evolve their networks and corresponding business models to address the cloud, including significantly more rapid provisioning, multi-tenant, elastic network bandwidth, and far lower costs per bit than capable today. These are the primary drivers behind the emergence of Software-Defined Networks.

While there are a number of hurdles to wide-spread adoption, SDN is already emerging as a viable approach for the cloud. In fact, IDC predicts the SDN market for Worldwide Enterprise/Cloud Service Providers will grow from about $360 million in revenue in 2013 to $3.7 billion by 2016, a staggering increase of more than 900 percent in just three years.

What Is Driving SDN?
There are a number of drivers for SDN, including the exponential growth in mobile broadband, cloud computing and on-demand service delivery requirements.

There's no denying that consumers and businesspeople around the globe are increasingly relying upon smartphones, tablets, and notebooks. CTIA's recent semi-annual wireless industry survey reports that the continued growth of LTE networks and corresponding strong sales for smartphones in the US have led to mobile broadband usage more than doubling over the last year. In fact, the most recent CTIA data shows that US carriers handled 1.16 trillion megabytes of data between July 2011 and June 2012, up 104 percent from the 568 billion megabytes used between July 2010 and June 2011.

Among the fasting growing applications is mobile video. According to the Gartner Market Trends: Worldwide, the State of Mobile Video, 2012 report, the size of the worldwide mobile video market was comprised of 429 million mobile video users in 2011 and is projected to grow exponentially to 2.4 billion users by 2016. Smartphones and tablet sales will contribute 440 million new mobile video users during the forecast period.

Cloud computing is also driving the need for SDN. Gartner projects the growth in public cloud services to almost double from $110B in 2012 to $210 by 2016. Such growth is accelerated by technology advancements increasing the Virtual Machine Density, and rapid migration to 10, 40 and 100G Ethernet in the Data Center. Such change enables IT to stay in front of the cost curve, as network demands far outpace the growth in their budgets.

What Is SDN Exactly?
Software-Defined Networking or SDN is one of the most exciting developments in our industry today. It has the potential to unlock innovation and upgrade network efficiencies. To put it in a nutshell, SDN is an emerging networking architecture that allows for the decoupling of the network control layer from the data transport layer. The architecture then becomes dynamic, adaptable, manageable and cost-effective.

SDN is characterized by:

  1. Programmable control of the network through open APIs that enable IT and network operators alike to tailor the behavior of the network to their individual environments.
  2. Centralized Intelligence, where network control is provided across multiple network elements through an open interface, as opposed to today's autonomous system model where control is provided by each individual network element.
  3. Abstraction, where underlying details of the lower layers are masked from the upper layers. For instance, applications may request services independent of the type of transport. Furthermore, a common set of control software can run across multiple forwarding plane chipsets/implementations.

SDN architectures facilitate network automation, virtualization, and policy management, which are essential in supporting the inherently dynamic and unpredictable networking demands by businesses and consumers alike.

SDN for Service Providers
For service providers, SDN provides a more agile and intelligent network that can be programmed to allocate bandwidth from a shared pool of resources where and when capacity is needed. Figure 1 depicts the SDN Architecture, which consists of:

  • Application Layer: Where the service creation/delivery/assurance software resides, including cloud orchestration software
  • Control Layer: Where the network software (referred to as Network Services Modules) reside that provide intelligent network control
  • Infrastructure Layer: Where the transport and switching elements reside that provide network forwarding

Figure 1: Software Defined Networking Functional Architecture

In this architecture, SDN leverages a centralized controller that acts as the "brains" of the network and oversees and supervises the entire network and instructs the switches how to create new paths to handle different flows as needed.

An SDN-enabled service provider packet network can also be made more reliable and stable through globally computed, deterministic restoration graphs. Global network control combined with real-time analytics means higher service quality with fewer resources. Bottom line - this improves the user experience and decreases costs.

SDN in the Enterprise
SDN will also simplify network operations and management for the enterprise. Both Gartner and IDC predict that the crossover point, where more than 50% of x86 server workloads are virtualized, to occur over the next year. As private cloud deployments grow, networks must be automated to integrate with the cloud orchestration/operating systems. SDN makes it easier to transition to a secure, virtualized, multi-tenant network required for the cloud.

In addition, enterprises are coping with rising bandwidth demands from video applications, especially teleconferencing and distance learning. Mobility (especially BYOD) poses new access control and security challenges. SDN architectures offer the flexibility, bandwidth elasticity, and intelligent control to redefine the capability vs. complexity tradeoff that was previously unmanageable.

SDN can close the gap between compute and the data domains, which will allow network administrators to analyze massive data sets faster and more efficiently. In turn, this improves network capacity efficiency and operations automation, while also helping to increase revenue potential and service innovation. SDN will help IT managers to significantly improve the operations of their networks and allow them to tailor their network to specific applications and IT requirements.

IT leaders can use SDN as a tool to help transform their business. For example: enterprises can foster closer relationships by offering customers greater online access to select data over the enterprise network. For instance, a financial services firm can enable large corporate customers the opportunity for third-party reporting, governance, or even analytics firms to directly access enterprise credit card information, obviating the need for intermediate sites, manual process steps, etc., that are needed to provide sufficient isolation. An SDN would create virtual network partitions governed by stringent and limited access policies and security to minimize unauthorized access.

By providing direct access via the enterprise network, users are afforded a more responsive and current user experience, while simplifying network access and reducing costs.

Where We're at with SDN Today
Trends such as mobility, server virtualization, cloud computing, and the need to rapidly respond to changing business conditions place significant demands on the network - demands that today's conventional network architectures were not designed to support. SDN promises to provide a new, dynamic network architecture that transforms traditional network backbones into more intelligent service-delivery platforms.

While SDN adoption is at an early stage, it will take time before SDN predominates. Server, storage and other network infrastructure vendors are just beginning to implement SDN enablers such as OpenFlow into their product lines. We anticipate that wide-scale product availability will not come over the next few years. Additionally, organizations like the Open Networking Forum (ONF) are working aggressively to develop and standardize SDN architecture and practices, as well as the OpenFlow interface.

Carriers are in the earliest stages of SDN adoption. But, SDN is not necessarily new. For example, one of Ciena's largest service provider customers maintains that its Ciena CoreDirector-based mesh optical network is, in fact, an example of a software-defined network, which has been operational for many years. It is also important to note that in the enterprise, SDN is poised to happen in the data center first.

Early movers such as Google, which built G-Scale, a massive SDN effort, offer plenty of inspiration. G-Scale includes Google-built routers and switches embedded with the OpenFlow protocol, which can be programmed to automatically create and reconfigure connections between its data centers located all over the world for maximum resource efficiency. According to Google, this has helped to dramatically improve network utilization and substantially reduce overall costs.

Based on efforts such as Google's and others, there is no doubt that SDN will be critical in helping enterprises and service providers build simpler networks that, with the help of virtualization, are more intelligent and cost-effective.

More Stories By Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn is a Senior Director of Market Development at Ciena Corporation, where he is focused on Ciena’s strategy for Software Defined Networking (SDN). He is also the Vice-Chair of the Market Education committee for the Open Networking Foundation (ONF).

For over 20 years, Marc has drove and promoted successful communications products for systems, software, semiconductor, and services firms serving the Data Communications and Telecommunications markets. Prior to joining Ciena, he held senior marketing and product management roles with IP Infusion, Micrel, Amdocs, Lucent Technologies, Alidian Networks, and International Network Services.

Marc earned a MS EE degree from the University of Southern California where he was a Hughes Fellow, a BS EE degree in Electrical Engineering and was the first Computer Engineering graduate from the University of Missouri.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Michael Bushong 08/01/13 12:44:00 PM EDT

This is a solid writeup. When one technology trend hits, it is interesting. But we have three or four that are all landing (arguably all in support of cloud, yet another trend). With SDN, Big Data (analytics to drive some of the intelligence in SDN), DevOps (the programmatic glue that stitches it all together), and even things like photonic switching, we could be seeing a massive upheaval - the kind of once-in-a-generation change that leaves the landscape forever different.

With all of this change, I suspect that buyers will need to more aggressively take action. This requires a different type of leader - more change management than technology procurement. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and where adoption moves quickly and where it stalls.

-Mike Bushong (@mbushong)
Plexxi

Latest Stories
"Akvelon is a software development company and we also provide consultancy services to folks who are looking to scale or accelerate their engineering roadmaps," explained Jeremiah Mothersell, Marketing Manager at Akvelon, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Enterprises are adopting Kubernetes to accelerate the development and the delivery of cloud-native applications. However, sharing a Kubernetes cluster between members of the same team can be challenging. And, sharing clusters across multiple teams is even harder. Kubernetes offers several constructs to help implement segmentation and isolation. However, these primitives can be complex to understand and apply. As a result, it’s becoming common for enterprises to end up with several clusters. Thi...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Carl J. Levine, Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1, will objectively discuss how DNS is used to solve Digital Transformation challenges in large SaaS applications, CDNs, AdTech platforms, and other demanding use cases. Carl J. Levine is the Senior Technical Evangelist for NS1. A veteran of the Internet Infrastructure space, he has over a decade of experience with startups, networking protocols and Internet infrastructure, combined with the unique ability to it...
"ZeroStack is a startup in Silicon Valley. We're solving a very interesting problem around bringing public cloud convenience with private cloud control for enterprises and mid-size companies," explained Kamesh Pemmaraju, VP of Product Management at ZeroStack, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Infoblox does DNS, DHCP and IP address management for not only enterprise networks but cloud networks as well. Customers are looking for a single platform that can extend not only in their private enterprise environment but private cloud, public cloud, tracking all the IP space and everything that is going on in that environment," explained Steve Salo, Principal Systems Engineer at Infoblox, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventio...
"Codigm is based on the cloud and we are here to explore marketing opportunities in America. Our mission is to make an ecosystem of the SW environment that anyone can understand, learn, teach, and develop the SW on the cloud," explained Sung Tae Ryu, CEO of Codigm, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The question before companies today is not whether to become intelligent, it’s a question of how and how fast. The key is to adopt and deploy an intelligent application strategy while simultaneously preparing to scale that intelligence. In her session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sangeeta Chakraborty, Chief Customer Officer at Ayasdi, provided a tactical framework to become a truly intelligent enterprise, including how to identify the right applications for AI, how to build a Center of Excellence to oper...
"IBM is really all in on blockchain. We take a look at sort of the history of blockchain ledger technologies. It started out with bitcoin, Ethereum, and IBM evaluated these particular blockchain technologies and found they were anonymous and permissionless and that many companies were looking for permissioned blockchain," stated René Bostic, Technical VP of the IBM Cloud Unit in North America, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Conventi...
Gemini is Yahoo’s native and search advertising platform. To ensure the quality of a complex distributed system that spans multiple products and components and across various desktop websites and mobile app and web experiences – both Yahoo owned and operated and third-party syndication (supply), with complex interaction with more than a billion users and numerous advertisers globally (demand) – it becomes imperative to automate a set of end-to-end tests 24x7 to detect bugs and regression. In th...
Large industrial manufacturing organizations are adopting the agile principles of cloud software companies. The industrial manufacturing development process has not scaled over time. Now that design CAD teams are geographically distributed, centralizing their work is key. With large multi-gigabyte projects, outdated tools have stifled industrial team agility, time-to-market milestones, and impacted P&L stakeholders.
High-velocity engineering teams are applying not only continuous delivery processes, but also lessons in experimentation from established leaders like Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook. These companies have made experimentation a foundation for their release processes, allowing them to try out major feature releases and redesigns within smaller groups before making them broadly available. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Lucas, Senior Staff Engineer at Optimizely, discussed how by using ne...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
"CA has been doing a lot of things in the area of DevOps. Now we have a complete set of tool sets in order to enable customers to go all the way from planning to development to testing down to release into the operations," explained Aruna Ravichandran, Vice President of Global Marketing and Strategy at CA Technologies, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.