Comcast this week explained its plans for software-defined networks (SDNs) and made public its existing relationship with the OpenDaylight Project, a consortium that promotes them. The news and commentary came in a blog post by Chris Luke, the cable operator’s senior principal engineer. He is also an OpenDaylight advisory group member.
The post says that Comcast wants to reduce operating expenditures by improving its network automation functions under its Programmable Network Platform. This, Luke writes, “outlines a stack of behaviors and abstraction layers that software uses to interact with the network.”
He then gets more specific:
Some of our key objectives are to simplify the handoffs from the OSS/BSS systems, empower engineers to rapidly develop and deploy new services and to improve the operational support model. It is our hope that by harmonizing on a common framework and useful abstractions, more application groups within the company will be able to make use of better intelligence and more easily interact with the network.
The basic idea of SDN is to separate the information that controls where data goes from the payload (the videos, the emails, etc.) itself. By doing this, a world of less expensive, more efficient, streamlined and modular services is possible. Networks can be reconfigured by the flip of a few switches and, with an assist from Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), new services can be added far more easily than they are today. This is the gold at the end of the rainbow for carriers and service providers.
The concepts of simplification and efficiency are great. The reality is that creating these conditions involves battling through a huge amount of underlying complexity. It also means that the vendors and related ecosystem members that author or deeply influence the specific approach that is decided upon will be richly rewarded.
Thus, the race is on to dominate the standards. FierceTelecom posted a report this week from Light Reading’s “Carrier SDN Networks” meeting that features insight from Chris Emmons, Verizon’s director of network planning for SDN Implementation. Emmons, whose company made significant SDN announcements last month, said that “true” or open source standards must be agreed upon. They must be deep:
Interestingly, Emmons also called upon vendors to work on SDN software that can segment different applications in the application layer. He also warned that if the big vendors don't do this, smaller, more nimble software vendors will do it instead and potentially take the lead. "If existing vendors don't do it, the up-and-comers will do it," he said.
Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Sterling Perrin used the same event to highlight SDN carrier progress made by NTT Communications, AT&T, Telstra and Verizon. Perrin writes, perhaps a bit overoptimistically, that the hype stage has passed and carriers are dealing with real-world implementation issues. He outlines what these are: Use cases, IP and optical integration, and how cable operators will harness SDNs. And, of course, security is a concern.
The sense is that SDN development is nowhere near complete. However, granular, real-world issues – not just high-level concepts – are being addressed.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.