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NTT Network Game Changer: OpenFlow & Software Defined Network (SDN)
This week with over 4 conference summits taking place in San Francisco Bay Area the promise of Open Flow and SDN grab our attention. While many conferences in the Valley are organized by for profit media companies focused on pushing vendor fest exhibitors to the main stage, the Open Networking Summit was a refreshing change. What makes the Open Networking Summit unique is that the foundation board members are not hardware manufactures but large enterprise customers and telecommunication providers that are driving the technology initiatives.
The Venue of this second conference was at the center of some of the most prolific battles of the networking industry. In the mid 1990’s the battle between the networking giants of Synoptics, which later became Bay Networks, 3Com and its nemesis Cisco Systems and Cabletron took place within a few blocks of the conference location. The vacant building of Bay Networks and Nortel Networks are now occupied by Yahoo. The old networking manufacturers have now been replaced by a new generation of application providers. As Open Flow becomes widely accepted and rolled out by large network providers we will see if the current network device manufactures will find new ways to reinvent themselves or simply become irrelevant.
The Open Networking Summit is run by a nonprofit foundation that is focused on proliferation and adoption of software defined networks. The organization is less than 2 years old but it has been tremendously successful in attracting networking customers to drive the technology decision as apposed to vendors dominating the standards. In our conversation with Dan Pitt, the organization Executive Director, they have signed on more than 66 companies that are now supporting the SND and open flow initiatives.
The promise of Software Defined Networks is unbundling the hardware from control and management software layer. As networking industry has been dominated by proprietary management and proprietary solutions each promising the black box to improve total cost of ownership and yet failing to deliver on its promise. Open Software Defined Networks promise a high degree of stability, higher QoS awareness, predictability, application differentiation for improved routing and monitoring. Google as early developer and supporter of OpenFlow currently runs all its internal traffic using SDN. Open Flow does it have its challenges including its current SDN Network Controller. As SDN technology is still in development research organization are collaborating from Stanford University to UC Berkeley under an umbrella Organization called ONRC. ONRC hopes to deliver on enabling the larger network industry to build networks that offer increasingly sophisticated functionality yet are cheaper and simpler to manage than current networks. With organization like Open Networking Foundation and ONRC customer driven open source standards will enable the next generation of API for SND Network Controllers.
The promise of SDN is to virtualize a network and separate the physical hardware layer from the network controller layer. Over time a software defined network becomes the underlying platform layer for various network based intelligent routing and network control application.
As a media partner, BizCloud had an exclusive opportunity to interview a number of keynote speakers prior to the event. We asked one of the largest telecommunication providers in the world on the impact of SDN & its importance to their business infrastructure.
The following questions where submitted and answered by Mr. Yukio, Senior Vice President of Service Infrastructure, NTT Communications Corporation. He presented a keynote session “Expectation for OpenFlow/SDN as Carrier’s Network” on Wednesday, April 18 at the Open Networking Summit 2012. His answers provide a sneak peek of what to expect from the telecommunications industry as it relates to OpenFlow/SDN.
We would love to hear from you as to what impact will OpenFlow have on Telco’s and Service Providers in the next 3 to 5 years?
-> The automation of VM operation is commonly used in cloud computing. On the other hand, Telco’s world is behind regarding automation of network resources. We believe SDN and OpenFlow will bring us more efficient network operation than CLI/config based operation.
What changes can be expected to NTT Communications infrastructure as a result of OpenFlow?
-> Automating network operation reduces cost of Opex. We also expect reduction of Capex using commodity equipment which does not have expensive build-in control-plane.
NTT Communications in the US owns wholly owned subsidiaries such as Dimension Data and Opsource. What will be the impact of OpenFlow support by NTT Communications on Opsource or Dimension Data current clients?
-> We think OpenFlow and SDN concepts might be effective to Dimension Data and Opsource solutions too.
Do you see a time in the near future that OpenFlow would be productized by NTT Communications and offered in a similar fashion as MPLS or VPN? Do you see it as part of an infrastructure and connectivity product offering by NTT Communications? Would such a product be viable?
-> As you know, OpenFlow does not define any new network (data plane) protocol. If we implement OpenFlow and OpenFlow Switches into wide area network, network application that is located on top of OpenFlow controller is needed. There might be a lot of work for R&D effort to commercial based implementation. And we should carefully consider the result would reduce total cost.
On the other hand, we are planning to launch new cloud service this summer using the OpenFlow technology for easier network control together with easier VM operation inside Datacenter, and among Datacenters in the near future. We believe this experience will help our consideration/evaluation of OpenFlow as a key technology for our wide area network.
How do you view the Open Flow community? Does OpenFlow have the momentum it needs for it to deliver on its promise?
-> Before OpenFlow, networking R&D seemed to becoming diminished. Now that OpenFlow has been introduced, there are a lot of R&D activities not only in the US but also in Japan. It is desirable situation for the telecom industry. But to realize the promised fruitage, there will be many things to do. ONF is unique organization because its board members are limited to service providers and academia. So we think it is fair and clear community compare to the other standard bodies.
What is the biggest technology challenge to OpenFlow?
-> The challenge is how we deploy OpenFlow widely, and scalability is the most important issue. We think OpenFlow controllers are not necessary to be centralized to solve this issue.
Do you have any advice for infrastructure service providers that are considering OpenFlow?
-> There are different requirements for wide-area networks and for datacenter networks. To implement OpenFlow into wide-area network, we have a lot of issues to solve. It is necessary to co-work with various activities such as discussion, R&D, market education, and so on.