Moving Toward the Great Promise of SDNs

Carl Weinschenk

The changing of generations can be a difficult thing. Imparting such change in the guts of a huge network is especially daunting. This is true in the transition to the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), software-defined networks (SDNs) or any other fundamental switch in how things are done.

However, perhaps SDNs are a bit less of a change than IMS because, as the name implies, it does not involve ripping out physical equipment. But the basics SDNs — separating the data that is being transported from the layer that is controlling the flow and making that control layer highly programmable and interoperable — constitutes a big transition nonetheless.

SDNs are the next great thing in telecom networks and there are several approaches. One take, OpenFlow, is the most common. But it is not fully defined and does not stand alone. EE Times posted a story this week that discusses projects that the Optical Internetworking Forum is starting as a way to define precisely what an SDN is and how the various pieces fit together. The interest level is high at the OIF, according to the story:

Members spent as much as a third of their latest three-day meeting at the end of October discussing new techniques for software-defined optical networks to serve cloud computing. “There are a number of possible projects being talked about,” said Jonathan Sadler, chair of the technical committee for the OIF, a group of more than 70 vendors and carriers.

Vendors also see the opportunities. Two announcements were made this week. Cyan, according to GigaOm, introduced Blue Planet. The story goes into detail on the product and its positioning. The bottom line, according to the story, is that Blue Planet is a controller that is aimed at SDN market.

The second news item was that Brocade is buying Vyatta, which builds a software-based network operating system. The press release says that the OS “is highly relevant for multiple applications in network virtualization, software-defined networking (SDN) and private/public cloud computing platforms.” The goal, according to the release on the deal, fits in nicely with SDNs:

Brocade plans to utilize Vyatta technology and expertise with the goal of offering its customers an end-to-end architecture built on a highly virtualized, dynamic network infrastructure.

Vendors’ worlds will be changed by SDNs. The breadth of the transition for both them and carriers is evident in this Light Reading piece on a presentation made at Ethernet Expo 2012 by Margaret Chiosi, the executive director of optics and Ethernet development at AT&T. Her presentation shows some of the standards bodies and organizations besides OIF that will get into the act as SDNs evolve. The transition is a big one. It has tremendous upside to carriers and vendors — if they play their cards right.



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