"There's a boundary between the data center and the WAN," Howard said. Today, those two resources are typically built and operated by different groups and carriers can't even view them as a single infrastructure, let alone manage them together, he said. They're hoping for faster service deployment, which could boost their revenue, and more efficient operation in the form of making sure service agreements are being met and their resources are being used well, he said.
Alcatel's timeline for putting VSP onto the market is aggressive. The technology will enter trials later this month at a few customers, including French carrier SFR, British cloud service provider Exponential-e and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Then, in the middle of this year, VSP will become generally available worldwide, the company said. The fact that there's no new hardware to test or manufacture makes this possible, Newell said.
There's still much to be proved in network virtualization, because the technologies are complex and real-world networks come in many shapes and sizes, according to Gartner's Skorupa. Specific users will try to implement SDN in environments that were never dreamed of in labs, he said.
"Once you turn it loose, only then do you really begin to get thorough testing," Skorupa said.