|Issue:||Asia-Pacific III 2014|
|Topic:||SDN: A new era for cloud and mobile networking|
|Title:||Director of Cloud & SDN Business Unit|
Stuart Benington is Director of the Cloud/SDN Business Unit at Coriant, where he is responsible for the SDN, NFV and cloud-based solution portfolio.
Benington has 25 years of experience in the technology industry and prior to this role, Benington held a variety of product management, marketing, and engineering positions for products in the packet optical, routing and mobile infrastructure markets.
Stuart Bennington graduated from Northwestern University – Kellogg School of Management, Purdue University, USA.
Stu Benington explores the rich opportunities that software-defined networking is offering companies in the Asia-Pacific region.
The boom in demand for services like cloud computing, mobile broadband and the Internet of Things – which is rapidly evolving into the Internet of Everything – is creating a huge tidal wave of ‘big data’; data whose volume gets so large it becomes challenging to store and process it. This ‘hypergrowth’ presents both opportunities and headaches for service and network providers dealing with data- and bandwidth-thirsty end-user applications.
As businesses and consumers increasingly embrace this technology the pressure is piling firmly onto service providers’ traditional business models and exposing the limitations of their traditional static and stratified transport architectures.
To meet these major challenges, service providers all over the world – but particularly in APAC – are now looking to one of the industry’s most promising technologies as one of the key remedies. Software-defined networking (SDN) will be absolutely critical in enabling service providers to create more efficient, agile and scalable transport infrastructures that are capable of meeting the demands of the cloud and networking world.
SDN is still aspirational for many organisations, but the reality is that 2014 is becoming the watershed year for the concept. Operators are finally realising the value of the opportunity and making the move from research and lab trials to field trials and actually implementing it in their networks. Indeed, analysts are particularly positive about the surge in SDN implementation, with IDC forecasting it to become a US$3.7 billion market by 2016.
According to Infonetics, trials of SDN this year are set to move into commercial deployments through 2015, with widespread small commercial deployments the following year as operators move at their own pace with selected NFV use cases and SN network domains. Between 2017 and 2020 SDN and NFV will become the new norm, with operators feeling comfortable with the technology and fully adopting the process.
With the SDN market set to boom in the next three to five years, below is an overview of what service providers, network operators and end users across the APAC region need to look out for from the technology.
Revenue growth: Job one
Clearly the biggest opportunity that SDN provides is the opportunity to drive revenue growth. Operators are facing an increasingly competitive environment with new entrants such as cloud hosting operators, content / OTT players, data centre infrastructure players, and so forth. Meanwhile the new applications that are propagating from end users lend themselves more directly to the network environments that these new operators provide.
SDN is levelling the playing field. Traditional infrastructure made the applications adapt to the network; SDN empowers the reverse – the network adapts to the specific needs of the applications, empowering greater efficiency, performance, and a better end-user experience. Financially, this drives a ‘connection on demand’ model that can be specifically tailored to an application and to an end-user’s willingness to pay. Moreover, the increase in network efficiency means that operators can get better yields by packing more users and connections into existing infrastructure. Finally, the greatly expedited service turn up time that SDN enables will translate into significantly improved time-to-revenue for operators.
Radical saving benefits
Implementing SDN provides radical cost and time saving benefits for enterprises and operators alike. The most obvious of these is the opportunity to automate activities via program controls, which enables organisations to mechanise functions, reduce the risk of human error and consequently increase business efficiency.
The rapid availability of new products and services is also a vital benefit of taking a software-defined approach to networking. It also decreases the time taken to dimension and provision resources for applications, while reducing the complexity of provisioning and configuring diverse resources. In this sense SDN acts as a network ‘compiler’ by translating complex operational management into a holistic, abstracted programming model.
SDN also enables customers to quickly customise required connection parameters while operators distribute loads to the most operators distribute loads to the most appropriate resources more efficiently, decreasing capex and opex costs. Additionally, vendor lock-in is minimised, as is the need for forced upgrade cycles.
Revolutionising business and consumer data
SDN will open up a world of data-rich opportunities to businesses and consumers alike. As service providers transform their existing network resources and architectures to adapt to this new networked world a number of key network attributes need to be addressed, and SDN technologies will play a critical role in each.
Programmability: The quickest way to introduce and adjust services is to make the network more programmable. This means making the network fully adaptable to the evolving needs of end users, network operators, and the applications themselves. As mentioned previously software-defined programmability and the automation of network resources will enable service providers to unlock new service revenue opportunities, such as transport as a service, bandwidth-on-demand and scheduled bandwidth; adapt to real time network changes, such as virtual machine migration; reduce overall network complexity; and use network resources more efficiently.
End-to-end multilayer integration: The shift of end-user services and applications to private and public cloud networks places even more importance on agile and efficient integration of compute and storage resources. This is across multiple geographies, such as access, metro, core, and protocol layers, such as wavelength, Optical Transport Network, Ethernet and IP/MPLS. SDN plays an important role in harmonising capabilities across this broad range of resources and enabling a true end-to-end global view of the network.
Of particular importance is optical layer flexibility. The physical layer of the network has seen significant technology advances, including coherent transmission, colourless / directionless / contentionless ROADMs, flexible-grid-enabled superchannels, and photonic mesh. To achieve maximum flexibility, scalability and resiliency, service-provider transport networks must fully leverage such technology innovation at the photonic layer to meet the performance requirements of cloud-centric residential and enterprise applications. That can only be fully realised with SDN, through inclusion of the optical layer as a legitimate alternative to pure packet forwarding as application needs dictate.
Openness: Packet optical transport infrastructure networks are multi-vendor and multi-technology by nature. They therefore depend on standards-based protocols to enable interoperability at the physical layer. SDN enables an unparalleled administering of multi-vendor networks and architectures with an open and collaborative software-based development process focused on end-user applications and optimized for enhanced-network programmability.
An open SDN environment has huge potential for both users and operators. It can drive innovation at an unprecedented pace by enabling the easy introduction of new functions and applications written by network vendors, third-party developers, and even the operators themselves.
Innovation: Fostering innovation along the lines just described is perhaps the most lucrative opportunity for an SDN-enabled network. As a further example, it’s possible to write abstracted applications for the network and apply them in a way that’s detached from specific vendors, protocols, or geographic environments. These abstracted applications can be specific to use cases like dynamic congestion management, carrier applications, such as mobile video management, technologies including weather management for microwave links, and many more.
Prepare for the Hypergrowth
The multitude of benefits SDN offers means it will quickly become the technology foundation for efficient, adaptive networking. As the growth of data-intensive applications and the emergence of new technologies continue to snowball, service providers will find themselves needing to find the answers to the ever-increasing demand from businesses and consumers. Building this foundation will take time but the sooner operators start to take the initial steps on the SDN ladder, the bigger their competitive dividends will be down the road.