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Leading the Way for SDN/NFV

By Casimer DeCusatis


While there’s been a lot written about the potential benefits of software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV), recent use cases and production deployments have demonstrated the real world value of these technologies. These topics have also been discussed at OFC for many years, and the March 2017 OFC conference marks a bold new initiative in this area, with the first SDN/NFV Demo Zone.

The Growth of SDN and NFV

There’s no denying that SDN and NFV represent big business for both enterprise data centers and telecommunication service providers. Within enterprise-class IT organizations, the adoption of SDN and NFV is driven in part by the growth of hyperscale cloud data centers. According to the 6th annual Cisco Global Cloud Index, there will be 485 of these warehouse-sized data centers by 2020, and network traffic within them will quintuple. But the adoption of SDN/NFV isn’t limited to large, privately owned data centers; it also extends to the telecommunication market. It’s been widely reported that SDN/NFV can potentially reduce both the capital and operating expense burdens facing service providers and help reduce their reliance on expensive, proprietary hardware platforms. SDN enables vendor agnostic networking equipment and NFV is used to virtualize and consolidate network elements onto multi-tenant, industry standard servers. For example, a recent annual forecast for the global NFV market calls for a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of over 32% between now and 2020.

One of the main drivers for this growth is the Internet of Things (IoT). Verizon has reported that their IoT business has grown by 24% this past quarter, and will soon top $1 B. Mobile operators and internet service providers have already begun making SDN and NFV investments in key functional areas such as EPC/mobile core, IMS, policy control, CPE (Customer Premises Equipment), CDN (Content Delivery Network) and transport networks. Industry analysts estimate that service providers seeking to reduce cost and virtualize their networks will drive SDN and NFV investments at a CAGR of 46% between 2016 and 2020, accounting for over $18 B in revenue by the end of this period.

SDN and NFV at OFC

Despite the rapid adoption of these new technologies, many researchers seem confused about what SDN and NFV actually mean; some claim the terms are ambiguous or vague, since they can be applied as an abstraction for many different networking protocols and designs such as OpenStack, OpenDayLight, Open Network Operating System, Open Platform for NFV, Open Source Mano and OpenConfig. This is one of the reasons that OFC has introduced the SDN/NFV Demo Zone, in an effort to promote leading edge practitioner solutions and use cases. Numerous proof-of-concept implementations and commercial initiatives have demonstrated that rapid innovation is possible for open optical hardware platforms running standardized application programming interfaces (APIs). Recently, the growth of SDN/NFV has been tied to the use of open development platforms in the optical domain, which is seen as a preferred strategy for hyperscale commercial environments. The OFC meeting will address the accomplishments of various initiatives such as the Open Compute Platform (OCP), Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP), Open ROADM Multi-Source Agreement, Central Office Rearchitected as Datacenter (CORD) and Open Platform for NFV. These and other projects provide extensible frameworks and software tools which facilitate the practical deployment of SDN/NFV.

The Data Center Summit: Open Hardware and Software Platforms

This Summit includes technical sessions with invited talks that define key terms and introduces these topics to the audience (insert link).  The SDN/NFV Demo Zone features interactive table-top demos selected by the rigorous OFC peer review system. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about these game-changing technologies, conveniently gathered in one place. As if that weren’t enough, your OFC attendance also includes leading edge technical discussions on a range of related topics such as software-defined storage, mobile networks using SDN, and the effects of SDN/NFV on energy savings, cybersecurity, network management, and much more.

How is your organization planning to deploy SDN/NFV?  Drop me a line on Twitter (@Dr_Casimer) and maybe I’ll use your examples in a future blog.

Posted: 8 December 2016 by Casimer DeCusatis | with 0 comments

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