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Is Software Defined Networking (SDN) a journey to somewhere?

February 14, 2013 - 5 Comments

Not One-size-fits-all

In the world of fashion, one-size-fits all has very limited appeal. People come in all shapes and sizes, with tastes, preferences, and needs that are equally diverse. So too are the diverse approaches and use cases that are driving interest in Software Defined Networking (SDN), automation, simplification, orchestration, and other solutions. Service providers are exploring technologies for more efficient, flexible, and cost-efficient network operations that will in turn make their businesses more agile and competitive.

Last year at Cisco Live in San Diego, Cisco introduced a broad vision and strategy  ̶  The Cisco Open Network Environment  ̶  an evolutionary approach that not only includes SDN but also encompasses an array of solutions, products, and technologies that are applicable to most, if not all, use cases that are much broader than what SDN alone could address. Since then, as part of our “Build, Buy, and Partner” strategy, we have announced newly developed technologies and products accompanied by strategic company acquisitions that add tools to enhance visibility, orchestration, programmability, and other capabilities to Cisco offerings.

At the end of January at Cisco Live in London 2013, we discussed a variety of solutions that we are working on with service providers to start their journey toward making their networks more programmable. From custom routing and traffic processing, to security applications and automation of fulfillment and assurance, here are just a few of the use cases explored and implemented by early adopters of our technologies that were discussed:

  • Service providers want deep programmability integrated with OSSs and the ability to tap into those solutions to better monetize their services but they don’t want management of SLAs adversely impacted.
  • Massively scalable data center customers are enabling deep programmability to better manage the network flow as their applications scale.
  • Cloud providers who are deploying IaaS or SaaS for customers are deploying technology to easily move workloads between physical and virtual infrastructures to support multi-tenant environments.

Starting with Visualization

With so many different needs dictating different solutions [e.g., the SDN architecture, OpenFlow, OpenStack, network controllers, overlays, APIs, virtual overlays] how do service providers know where to begin transforming their networks for greater programmability, information harvesting, and other new features?

Before approaching deep application and service programmability, the first step is to extract and analyze the huge amount of available network information and understand what is happening throughout the network in real-time. Where is the traffic flowing throughout the network or in a specific region? What resources are being used today? What will be necessary tomorrow?

1Cisco Open Network Environment (ONE) provides those additional APIs to allow deep and broad visibility into the network, informing operators and application developers what resources are available, what’s the best path for services to follow, and other information to support more automated traffic engineering.

One example of how to utilize and monetize greater network visibility is captured in this short video. For service providers, the ability to deliver consistent, predictable services is central to their relationship with customers. An accurate, real-time “Internet Traffic Report” that shows what is happening across the service provider network infrastructure would be a game-changer. The video shows the value of this solution enabled by the automated, Cisco ONE Path Computation and Controller function.

Other Use Cases from Our Early Adopters

We are now seeing providers starting their network programmability journey with a variety of use cases programming simple applications using various Cisco ONE tools to enhance programmability, automation, orchestration, and other functions. These applications combine training on the tools with immediate practical benefits in their day to day operations.

  • 2If a network administrator at a service provider wants to see how packets flow through the network today, he or she would need to enter many commands across many different CLIs. But with Cisco ONE, administrators are using the onePK toolkit to access, extend, or customize the rich set of software functionality provided by Cisco routers and switches running in Cisco IOS®, Cisco IOS-XR, and Cisco NX-OS. They are writing simple applications that show how packets flow in their network in seconds.
  • Providing a proprietary encryption algorithm or the specific treatment and routing of data can easily be implemented with simple routines in applications developed by our partners and customers.
  • At CiscoLive in London, Axel Clauberg, Vice President CTO-ATI IP Architecture, Transport and Aggregation, and David Ward , CTO and Chief Architect Engineering, shared the details about the TeraStream trial. The TeraStream Architecture that Cisco is working on with Deutsche Telecom at Hravatski Telecom, the Croatian unit of Deutsche Telekom, was unveiled. The TeraStream architecture and technology allows for the provisioning of network services rather than network elements and resources. It includes a unique services view of processes to be programmed directly into the network. With TeraStream, an elastic service controller helps to automatically monitor and manage service specific data center resources and virtual machines. This novel and open architecture is proving to reduce network and system complexity, improve operational efficiency, and enable new IP cloud-based services in a fraction of the time typically required to provision and launch new offerings.

As we’ve said over the years with other industry-wide initiatives at Cisco, efforts to implement programmability, orchestration, and automation of service delivery is a journey. But on this journey the road leads in many different directions, based on the varied needs of our customers. At CiscoLive in London, we clearly saw this broad approach resulting in many exciting new, practical solutions that are already leveraging the tools, technologies, and architectures provided by the Cisco ONE.

Turn to Cisco for the right sized solution and tools and begin your journey to greater network programmability, automation, simplification, and agility today.

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  3. Telecommunication providers have been looking for ways to optimize costs and increase network efficiency over the last decade. At the same time, the industry is also witnessing a huge push for newer forms of networking that is faster, simpler and easier to manage. In this aspect, Software Defined Networking (SDN) has grown into the main technology to address this trend. Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a first of its kind networking concept that has picked up significant market traction over the last year. The technology directly helps communication providers to redirect network traffic and ease network congestion; ultimately resulting in significant cost savings that can be redirected to drive core business goals. While the SDN & network virtualization market currently stands at a nascent stage, industry consolidation is set to happen in the near future, driving better adoption with concentrated messaging among enterprises.

    Market Research projections reveal that the global SDN market is estimated to grow from $198 million in 2012 to $2.10 billion in 2017. North America continues to be the biggest market for SDN solutions.

  4. IMHO, SDN is not a journey, rather a milestone in the pursuit of utility computing. The next major evolution will be when network speeds and latency are comparable with that of the bus speed of a server. When that is possible, the ability to place an abstraction layer separating memory and processor calls from our workloads, we will recognize the ability to “purchase” those activities, removing the need to move the workload when resources are constrained.

  5. Cisco provides secure communication for users. good practice