December 12, 2012, 8:51 AM — Software-defined networking (SDN) has the potential to transform the telecom industry by improving the ability of carriers (both wired and wireless) to flexibly deliver bandwidth "on demand." It is critical that carriers improve both their network flexibility (improved customer value) and reduce their high operational costs as over-the-top providers (e.g., Google, Amazon, Skype, etc.) challenge the carriers' ability to grow their revenues and impact their margins.
SDN (and OpenFlow) technology is clearly impacting the data center network, including data centers in large carriers (e.g., AT&T, SingTel, Telefonica, etc.). In the enterprise, SDN is defined as follows:
- Separation of control and data plane -- e.g., the intelligence of the switch/router is split out from the packet forwarding engine.
- Programmability. The ability to centrally change traffic flows, partition the networks and provide application-level QoS.
TECH ARGUMENT: Cisco, VMware and OpenFlow fragment SDNs
In the $100 billion-plus telecom infrastructure market, the way to define SDN is less clear. Technology infrastructure spans Layer 0-7 of the OSI stack and consists of a number of unique market segments, including optical networks, carrier-grade routers, wireless edge, wireless core, CPE, etc., and the transport network must be tied to a complex set of operational support and billing (OSS/BSS) tools to manage the network and bill the customer.
The promise of SDN for the telecom industry is significant improvements in the manageability and flexibility of the network. This promise includes automated traffic management, improved bandwidth engineering, and the ability to tailor the network "on demand" to customer needs. Today the large carriers are unable to offer customers truly flexible data networks, where customers can pay for only the bandwidth they use and automatically burst traffic as applications require. And it is this bandwidth flexibility that could give carriers the edge they need to successfully deliver a range of cloud-based services.