As I was thinking about how best to advise you on how to “experiment” with SDN technologies, and more specifically why you should run a formal pilot to evaluate SDN technology options (a topic I covered in my previous blog), I was reminded of this “wipeout” picture I took last year at a “freeride” competition – the “Coe Cup“ -- at my local ski mountain, Glencoe Moutain Resort, here in the UK. Let me tell you why!
Why you may want to “pilot” new technology adoption!
In the announcement of the Cisco Evolved Services Platform last week, we not only highlighted our initial service offers in mobility and video and the business benefits it enables, but also that it was open, extensible and elastic. Openness is critical for providers by nature of the fact that their networks – often global in scope and mind-boggling in scale – require all the different technologies and often from different vendors installed to create the network experience desired actually can work together. If not, it limits the offers they can take to market or requires operational contortions to make work, either of which would affect the provider’s ability to do business.
That’s why our engineering teams are so focused on making the Evolved Services Platform so Open. They have incorporated Openstack and Open Daylight (SDN) protocol suite; they’ve made it fully compliant with ETSI NfV (MANO), 3GPP Gi-LAN and more. In fact, their efforts in the more than 60 standards bodies helps us to factor into our roadmaps the latest understanding of the current standards and, just as importantly, where they are going.
But in addition to standards, the Cisco Evolved Services Platform needs to also be multi-vendor. And on the first day of our largest tradeshow of the year, Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where pleased to highlight Broadsoft, Intel and Mavenir are joining in their endorsement of our approach. Here’s what they said:
“At BroadSoft we are the leading application provider and working toward the NFV implementation with an open eco-system. We share an open platform strategy with Cisco around virtualization, orchestration and automation that provides an environment where customers, partners, and independent developers can freely innovate and develop integrated applications that offer greater value to users. We are excited to work with Cisco to provide a virtualized/orchestrated VoLTE solution on the Cisco Evolved Services Platform.”, said Scott Hoffpauir, Chief Technology Officer, BroadSoft.
“With the virtualization capabilities enabled with the Evolved Services Platform, Cisco is able to address industry requirements for orchestration of services across both virtual and physical infrastructure,” said Rose Schooler, Vice President and General Manager of the Intel Communications and Storage Infrastructure Group. “By utilizing the advanced features of the Intel Xeon server platform, Cisco is able to deliver solution architectures that are enabling the performance agility on fully open compute systems that service providers need to quickly scale new services, more customized to customer needs, with a faster time to market.”
“Virtualization is transforming our business by providing the agility, flexibility and profitability for service innovations. More importantly, providing a cloud platform that is open, extensible and elastic for mobile solution providers is a key step toward realizing this direction. We are pleased to see Cisco making this vision a reality to the industry and its partners by providing the Cisco Evolved Services Platform.”, said Bahram Jalalizadeh, EVP of Business Development, Mavenir Systems
These, along with Openwave Mobility and Metaswitch, make up the initial members of the Cisco Evolved Services Platform Ecosystem, to help avoid making multi-vendor environment hamper a SP operations but rather to help give the service provider flexibility to pursue even more opportunities as they stay Open for business.
Earlier this month, I attended the first ever summit on OpenDaylight (ODL) project in Santa Clara, CA. This near sold out event was largely successful by many standards. It brought together a large number of great minds to the table to solve some of the toughest challenges the networking industry is facing around Software-defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV). The group announced a first major step forward with the first open source software release called Hydrogen. The bulk of the credit goes to 154 contributors from Cisco, IBM, Ericsson, Red Hat, Citrix and others who wrote over a million lines of code in past ten months to make this happen.
The two-day summit was packed with a variety of sessions that were geared towards a diverse set of audience. The sessions varied from general topics to specific topics such as relevance of Open source software, NFV, LISP, standards, discussions on North and South bound APIs, developer tutorials for building applications & tool chain, using OpenStack with ODL, analytics, test automation, and a true story of SDN in production environment.
Of all these topics, here are the three important themes that stood out to me -
1. The importance of an Open Source, community initiative for SDN
The concept of Open Source software has been around since decades. It is fast catching up in the non-traditional realms of computer networking. For some, the concept of open source equates to free software. While this is partially true, I strongly believe that open=free is a misnomer. I have started to realize that open source and further, the collaborative initiatives like ODL is far beyond the notion of freeness. In my view, the most important thing that such an initiative does is to gather right minds to bring out bright ideas. The collective wisdom that emanates from such a collaborative initiative helps vendors develop a cohesive set of products that speaks a common language, and perhaps share certain fundamental design constructs to aid interoperability. At the same time, I believe that this collaboration helps to compress the infinite ways vendors can built products to a bounded, agreed upon set of behaviors and interfaces. Customers are real beneficiaries of such an open initiative due to this standardization and better product interoperability. As Vijay Pandey from IBM aptly said in one of his presentations, open source initiatives like ODL “promote innovation and raise the value bar.”
2. What and how much to Standardize (North and South bound APIs)
In the summit, there were several interesting debates on what to standardize and how much. With regards to how much, I am with Guru Parulkar’s mantra to “standardize as little as possible.”
One of the core capabilities that SDN brings to the table is the notion around exposing interfaces from control plane to the infrastructure layer (South Bound APIs or SBI) and to the application/business layer (North bound APIs or NBI). We talked about using common approach for design constructs above, and the APIs are central to the constructs. However, if we (are somehow able to) standardize every hook into the system, we are forcing the industry to take a “single” approach to solve the underlying problems. Additionally, I believe that such an approach will not only go against the very notion of openness, but will also hinder innovation and ability to provide unique experiences.
If we talk about SBI, we rightly need some standardized ways to abstract some of the infrastructure complexities. I learnt that ODL will include support for SDN open standards such as OpenFlow, VxLAN, PCEP etc. Similar to SBI, can we standardize the NBI’s as well?
SunGard AS has more than 9000 enterprise customers who count on our cloud services and managed services when disaster strikes. Lately, we’ve seen that the “Internet of Everything” is changing customer expectations. Our customers want new types of cloud services—and they want them sooner. They’re also asking to provision and control the services on their own. To keep delivering new products and services, we need a network that’s more flexible, intelligent, secure, and agile than ever before.
Our strategy for the future is to create a platform for service agility by enabling network programming. This is a radical change for our business and our customers. Not having to wait for engineers to program the network will help us bring new services to market sooner. Network programmability will also make it possible to offer new self-service options our customers are requesting, like bandwidth calendaring and service on demand. Read More »
If you were to believe the industry press, you could easily be forgiven for thinking that many companies across the world were rolling software defined networking (SDN) technologies into their networks today. I’m part of Cisco’s Services team and my colleagues across the world are the experts in helping you all design and deploy networks. If there is a large or complex leading (or bleeding!) edge network out there being designed, you can place a safe bet that someone from the Cisco Services team is involved helping our customers achieve their targets. If you’re involved in deploying any type of high technology equipment, you’ll appreciate that there is a world of difference between selling, demoing, and actually making it all work in your environment when it comes to new technology. Our team are in the latter camp.
So what are our consultants telling me about SDN in the real world? Excluding a few notable high profile cases (usually involving hyper-scale data centers) they are not seeing -- as yet, to be honest -- many early deployments. However they are seeing a growing number of customers interest in learning about and evaluating SDN related technologies -- including Cisco ONE, NFV and in particular Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI). And they are providing some early feedback on the use cases of SDN that customers are most interested in. They are all clear, however, on this point: this is the time to learn what SDN and Cisco ONE can do for your network in the future.
So how do you get started in SDN? Let me outline 5 key steps to help you get started. I’ll also point you to a technical white paper written by Mitch Mitchiner and Reema Prasad, two of our Customer Solutions Architects in Cisco Services, two of our experts responsible for making all of this work for you, your team and your business. I also recommend you check out the video link I’ve provided, for an excellent live demo of Cisco ONE technology, first presented at Cisco Live last year. This video gives a live demo of latency-based routing, one of the use cases described in Mitch and Reema’s paper.