Welcome!

Java Authors: Elizabeth White, Adine Deford, Patrick Carey, Liz McMillan, Lori MacVittie

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java, SOA & WOA, Virtualization, Cloud Expo, Big Data Journal

SDN Journal: Article

Software-Defined Networking: The Promise and the Reality

Building simpler networks that, with the help of virtualization, are more intelligent and cost-effective

The enterprise is increasingly resorting to cloud services for many applications ranging from efficient application hosting or low-cost backup and archiving to cloud data centers. Typically, enterprise networks are interconnected to the Cloud over low speed IP networks that are limited in capacity and flexibility.

Over the next few years, however, enterprises will leverage the cloud for larger amounts of storage as they adopt Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS). This in turn compels the need for a more flexible and intelligent network capable of dynamically responding to rapidly changing IT demands, without bottlenecks, security vulnerabilities or data loss.

The impact of the cloud necessitates that Enterprise IT provide more focus on server-server connectivity rather than primarily supporting client-server interactions. This shift will also affect major service providers who must evolve their networks and corresponding business models to address the cloud, including significantly more rapid provisioning, multi-tenant, elastic network bandwidth, and far lower costs per bit than capable today. These are the primary drivers behind the emergence of Software-Defined Networks.

While there are a number of hurdles to wide-spread adoption, SDN is already emerging as a viable approach for the cloud. In fact, IDC predicts the SDN market for Worldwide Enterprise/Cloud Service Providers will grow from about $360 million in revenue in 2013 to $3.7 billion by 2016, a staggering increase of more than 900 percent in just three years.

What Is Driving SDN?
There are a number of drivers for SDN, including the exponential growth in mobile broadband, cloud computing and on-demand service delivery requirements.

There's no denying that consumers and businesspeople around the globe are increasingly relying upon smartphones, tablets, and notebooks. CTIA's recent semi-annual wireless industry survey reports that the continued growth of LTE networks and corresponding strong sales for smartphones in the US have led to mobile broadband usage more than doubling over the last year. In fact, the most recent CTIA data shows that US carriers handled 1.16 trillion megabytes of data between July 2011 and June 2012, up 104 percent from the 568 billion megabytes used between July 2010 and June 2011.

Among the fasting growing applications is mobile video. According to the Gartner Market Trends: Worldwide, the State of Mobile Video, 2012 report, the size of the worldwide mobile video market was comprised of 429 million mobile video users in 2011 and is projected to grow exponentially to 2.4 billion users by 2016. Smartphones and tablet sales will contribute 440 million new mobile video users during the forecast period.

Cloud computing is also driving the need for SDN. Gartner projects the growth in public cloud services to almost double from $110B in 2012 to $210 by 2016. Such growth is accelerated by technology advancements increasing the Virtual Machine Density, and rapid migration to 10, 40 and 100G Ethernet in the Data Center. Such change enables IT to stay in front of the cost curve, as network demands far outpace the growth in their budgets.

What Is SDN Exactly?
Software-Defined Networking or SDN is one of the most exciting developments in our industry today. It has the potential to unlock innovation and upgrade network efficiencies. To put it in a nutshell, SDN is an emerging networking architecture that allows for the decoupling of the network control layer from the data transport layer. The architecture then becomes dynamic, adaptable, manageable and cost-effective.

SDN is characterized by:

  1. Programmable control of the network through open APIs that enable IT and network operators alike to tailor the behavior of the network to their individual environments.
  2. Centralized Intelligence, where network control is provided across multiple network elements through an open interface, as opposed to today's autonomous system model where control is provided by each individual network element.
  3. Abstraction, where underlying details of the lower layers are masked from the upper layers. For instance, applications may request services independent of the type of transport. Furthermore, a common set of control software can run across multiple forwarding plane chipsets/implementations.

SDN architectures facilitate network automation, virtualization, and policy management, which are essential in supporting the inherently dynamic and unpredictable networking demands by businesses and consumers alike.

SDN for Service Providers
For service providers, SDN provides a more agile and intelligent network that can be programmed to allocate bandwidth from a shared pool of resources where and when capacity is needed. Figure 1 depicts the SDN Architecture, which consists of:

  • Application Layer: Where the service creation/delivery/assurance software resides, including cloud orchestration software
  • Control Layer: Where the network software (referred to as Network Services Modules) reside that provide intelligent network control
  • Infrastructure Layer: Where the transport and switching elements reside that provide network forwarding

Figure 1: Software Defined Networking Functional Architecture

In this architecture, SDN leverages a centralized controller that acts as the "brains" of the network and oversees and supervises the entire network and instructs the switches how to create new paths to handle different flows as needed.

An SDN-enabled service provider packet network can also be made more reliable and stable through globally computed, deterministic restoration graphs. Global network control combined with real-time analytics means higher service quality with fewer resources. Bottom line - this improves the user experience and decreases costs.

SDN in the Enterprise
SDN will also simplify network operations and management for the enterprise. Both Gartner and IDC predict that the crossover point, where more than 50% of x86 server workloads are virtualized, to occur over the next year. As private cloud deployments grow, networks must be automated to integrate with the cloud orchestration/operating systems. SDN makes it easier to transition to a secure, virtualized, multi-tenant network required for the cloud.

In addition, enterprises are coping with rising bandwidth demands from video applications, especially teleconferencing and distance learning. Mobility (especially BYOD) poses new access control and security challenges. SDN architectures offer the flexibility, bandwidth elasticity, and intelligent control to redefine the capability vs. complexity tradeoff that was previously unmanageable.

SDN can close the gap between compute and the data domains, which will allow network administrators to analyze massive data sets faster and more efficiently. In turn, this improves network capacity efficiency and operations automation, while also helping to increase revenue potential and service innovation. SDN will help IT managers to significantly improve the operations of their networks and allow them to tailor their network to specific applications and IT requirements.

IT leaders can use SDN as a tool to help transform their business. For example: enterprises can foster closer relationships by offering customers greater online access to select data over the enterprise network. For instance, a financial services firm can enable large corporate customers the opportunity for third-party reporting, governance, or even analytics firms to directly access enterprise credit card information, obviating the need for intermediate sites, manual process steps, etc., that are needed to provide sufficient isolation. An SDN would create virtual network partitions governed by stringent and limited access policies and security to minimize unauthorized access.

By providing direct access via the enterprise network, users are afforded a more responsive and current user experience, while simplifying network access and reducing costs.

Where We're at with SDN Today
Trends such as mobility, server virtualization, cloud computing, and the need to rapidly respond to changing business conditions place significant demands on the network - demands that today's conventional network architectures were not designed to support. SDN promises to provide a new, dynamic network architecture that transforms traditional network backbones into more intelligent service-delivery platforms.

While SDN adoption is at an early stage, it will take time before SDN predominates. Server, storage and other network infrastructure vendors are just beginning to implement SDN enablers such as OpenFlow into their product lines. We anticipate that wide-scale product availability will not come over the next few years. Additionally, organizations like the Open Networking Forum (ONF) are working aggressively to develop and standardize SDN architecture and practices, as well as the OpenFlow interface.

Carriers are in the earliest stages of SDN adoption. But, SDN is not necessarily new. For example, one of Ciena's largest service provider customers maintains that its Ciena CoreDirector-based mesh optical network is, in fact, an example of a software-defined network, which has been operational for many years. It is also important to note that in the enterprise, SDN is poised to happen in the data center first.

Early movers such as Google, which built G-Scale, a massive SDN effort, offer plenty of inspiration. G-Scale includes Google-built routers and switches embedded with the OpenFlow protocol, which can be programmed to automatically create and reconfigure connections between its data centers located all over the world for maximum resource efficiency. According to Google, this has helped to dramatically improve network utilization and substantially reduce overall costs.

Based on efforts such as Google's and others, there is no doubt that SDN will be critical in helping enterprises and service providers build simpler networks that, with the help of virtualization, are more intelligent and cost-effective.

More Stories By Marc Cohn

Marc Cohn is a Senior Director of Market Development at Ciena Corporation, where he is focused on Ciena’s strategy for Software Defined Networking (SDN). He is also the Vice-Chair of the Market Education committee for the Open Networking Foundation (ONF).

For over 20 years, Marc has drove and promoted successful communications products for systems, software, semiconductor, and services firms serving the Data Communications and Telecommunications markets. Prior to joining Ciena, he held senior marketing and product management roles with IP Infusion, Micrel, Amdocs, Lucent Technologies, Alidian Networks, and International Network Services.

Marc earned a MS EE degree from the University of Southern California where he was a Hughes Fellow, a BS EE degree in Electrical Engineering and was the first Computer Engineering graduate from the University of Missouri.

Comments (1) View Comments

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


Most Recent Comments
Michael Bushong 08/01/13 12:44:00 PM EDT

This is a solid writeup. When one technology trend hits, it is interesting. But we have three or four that are all landing (arguably all in support of cloud, yet another trend). With SDN, Big Data (analytics to drive some of the intelligence in SDN), DevOps (the programmatic glue that stitches it all together), and even things like photonic switching, we could be seeing a massive upheaval - the kind of once-in-a-generation change that leaves the landscape forever different.

With all of this change, I suspect that buyers will need to more aggressively take action. This requires a different type of leader - more change management than technology procurement. It will be interesting to see how this plays out and where adoption moves quickly and where it stalls.

-Mike Bushong (@mbushong)
Plexxi

@ThingsExpo Stories
The BPM world is going through some evolution or changes where traditional business process management solutions really have nowhere to go in terms of development of the road map. In this demo at 15th Cloud Expo, Kyle Hansen, Director of Professional Services at AgilePoint, shows AgilePoint’s unique approach to dealing with this market circumstance by developing a rapid application composition or development framework.
“In the past year we've seen a lot of stabilization of WebRTC. You can now use it in production with a far greater degree of certainty. A lot of the real developments in the past year have been in things like the data channel, which will enable a whole new type of application," explained Peter Dunkley, Technical Director at Acision, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
The Internet of Things is not new. Historically, smart businesses have used its basic concept of leveraging data to drive better decision making and have capitalized on those insights to realize additional revenue opportunities. So, what has changed to make the Internet of Things one of the hottest topics in tech? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Gray, Director, Embedded and Internet of Things, discussed the underlying factors that are driving the economics of intelligent systems. Discover how hardware commoditization, the ubiquitous nature of connectivity, and the emergence of Big Data a...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

SYS-CON Events announced today that IDenticard will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IDenticard™ is the security division of Brady Corp (NYSE: BRC), a $1.5 billion manufacturer of identification products. We have small-company values with the strength and stability of a major corporation. IDenticard offers local sales, support and service to our customers across the United States and Canada. Our partner network encompasses some 300 of the world's leading systems integrators and security s...
DevOps Summit 2015 New York, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long development cycles that produce software that is obsolete at launch. DevOps may be disruptive, but it is essential.
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa, at more than US$500 billion, and ranks 23rd in the world. A recent re-evaluation of Nigeria's true economic size doubled the previous estimate, and brought it well ahead of South Africa, which is a member (unlike Nigeria) of the G20 club for political as well as economic reasons. Nigeria's economy can be said to be quite diverse from one point of view, but heavily dependent on oil and gas at the same time. Oil and natural gas account for about 15% of Nigera's overall economy, but traditionally represent more than 90% of the country's exports and as...
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...