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The Promise of Software-Defined Networking


Software-defined networking (SDN) was the focus of technical session #M2H, “Enabling the Cloud: Unleashing the Capabilities of Emerging Flexible Optical Transport through SDN and NFV I.”
Leading off the session was Dan Pitt, the executive director of the Open Networking Foundation, a nonprofit organization that just celebrated its fourth birthday. The foundation has a board that includes such industry heavy hitters as Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft, Verizon, Deutsche Telekom, NTT and Goldman Sachs, and it is dedicated to the promotion and adoption of SDN through open standards development, Pitt said.
“Open,” he added, is defined by being published, being standard and not being controlled by a single party.
SDN started out as a way to separate control so that it would be contained in one logical, central place and not spread out across every network element. Companies are interested because it promises to save money, mostly in data centers, by allowing them to replace expensive, branded Ethernet switches with cheaper hardware. It also promises to give companies the chance to create new business opportunities and find new sources of revenue by defining new ventures that make use of their networks that are not tied solely to the network equipment.
A big part of SDN is the control layer, and the basic idea of the control layer is that it can affect switching in many places in the infrastructure layer, figuring out where packets of data should go and sending the commands down using a protocol called OpenFlow.
In his talk, Pitt covered the work of the Optical Transport Working Group within his organization, including OpenFlow extensions for optical transport. He detailed the results and next steps following a demo they did in 2014 that involved seven global carriers. He concluded by reiterating that the foundation's mission is to accelerate the adoption of SDN.
“That is what we will continue to do,” he said.
AT&T: Views of an SDN Early Adopter
Following Pitt, Mehran Esfandiari of AT&T spoke on how his company is moving toward an SDN-based optical transport architecture that will allow them to dynamically manage, plan and re-optimize optical networks, substantially reducing cost. There are currently proof-of-concept projects going on, he said.
He said to expect flexible “whitebox” elements that are modular and will allow software to control hardware from multiple vendors from a separate, centralized control plane. “And not be tied to the equipment," he said, "and that's one of the key aspects of SDN for us.”
Another, he said, is its promise to provide the ability to define services based on what the customer wants rather than what the network can do at any particular time.

Posted: 23 March 2015 by OFC | with 0 comments

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