By Sudeepta Ray, Assistant Vice President – Technology, Aricent Group
Roy Chua and Matt Palmer, who runs the Wiretap Ventures consultancy, forecasts that SDN equipment sales will reach $35.6 billion in 2018. This figure counts hardware that doesn’t yet run SDN but the rationale behind its inclusion is that these equipment sales are being triggered specifically by SDN. In other words, this equipment is being purchased because of their SDN roadmap. Additionally, venture investment in SDN-related companies grew nearly 50-fold since 2007, to $454 million in 2012. It’s no question that the industry is gearing up to reap the gains expected from software defined networking. SDN is positioned to revolutionize the way networks can be provided and drive innovation, and many in the industry – large and small – are taking part to pave the way for SDN to reach its highest potential.
As a relatively nascent technology, building a common foundation is crucial to SDN’s success. Without it, network operators are limited in how much they can simplify management across their multi-vendor networks. Additionally, third-party software developers will have to work with each networking vendor separately which raises development costs and ultimately, hinder innovation. Seeing the potential CAPEX and OPEX gains that SDN can secure, some of the biggest companies in networking and IT – including Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, HP, Juniper, and IBM – have collaborated to form the OpenDaylight Project, an open source initiative that aims to accelerate SDN developments and make it easier for SDN applications to be built and deployed. This foundation signifies the industry’s first major step in broadening the unification and collaboration around the emerging SDN market. The industry is aware of the potential of virtualized local and wide area networks that are easier to manage and cheaper to run than traditional infrastructures, and that a standardized approach to SDN applications will be extremely beneficial.
Meanwhile, other network infrastructure vendors are demonstrating the SDN-readiness of their solutions by adding the OpenFlow feature to their equipment, including Ethernet switches, routers, and wireless access points. In conventional networks, each switch has proprietary software that tells network switches where to send packets. With the OpenFlow protocol, packet transport decisions are centralized so that the network can be programmed independently of the individual switches. This separation of the data plane from the control plane allows for more effective use of network resources than was possible with traditional networks.
Today orchestration of Network Elements are dependent on proprietary interfaces, restricting the ability to mix and match, but a SDN infrastructure based on standardized interfaces (e.g. Open Flow) would allow this functionality among multi-vendor environments. Additional advantages of SDN include improved uptime by eliminating manual intervention and reducing risk of human errors which can shut down an entire network; better management by empowering service providers with a single vantage point and set of tools to manage the virtual networking environment and resources; and increased network transparency which leads to more effective and efficient IT planning and strategies.
With more demands being place on IT to cut costs and increase efficiency with less resources, founders of the OpenDaylight Project as well as individual network infrastructure vendors are paving the way for SDN to empower the industry to “do more with less”. The need for highly virtualized network environments and programmable networks puts SDN on the trajectory to drive new waves of network innovation. By virtualizing the network, various segments can be used for different purposes while streamlining network operations, ultimately, helping to overcome the limitations and operational challenges posed by today’s legacy networking equipment.