In the third article on the IDC Directions 2013 Conference (March 5th in Santa Clara, CA), we take a hard look at Software Defined Networking as presented by Rohit Mehra, IDC VP for Network Infrastructure.
Note: Please see 2013 IDC Directions Part I for an explanation of the “3rd Platform” and its critical importance to the IT industry and Part II on New Data Center Dynamics and Requirements
IDC firmly believes that the “3rd Platform” is the way forward and that the network is the vital link between cloud computing and mobility. “The Cloud is evolving into a comprehensive, integrated application delivery model incorporating all four elements of the 3rd platform,” said Mr. Mehra.
- Cloud Apps require network agility, flexibility and must support higher east-west traffic flows (between servers in a cloud resident data center).
- Mobile access is crucial with the proliferation of mobile devices (e.g. smart phones and tablets) and continued exponential growth of mobile data traffic.
- Variable end points and different traffic patterns must be supported.
- Social networking is being integrated with other enterprise applications. This is resulting in increased volumes of cloud data exchanges with client devices and more server-to-server traffic flows.
- Big Data/Analytics results in scale-out computing which needs scale-out networking. Greater application-to-network visibility will be required.
As a result of these strong 3rd platform trends, Mr. Mehra said, “Application access/delivery is dependent on the cloud resident data center and enterprise network. Both will need to become more dynamic and flexible with SDN.”
IDC asked IT managers: What was the main reason you needed to Re-Architect The Network to support Private Cloud? The top three reasons were:
- We needed to ensure security between virtual servers
- We needed more bandwidth to support the virtualized applications
- The network became a bottleneck to new service provisioning
Rohit said that SDN could address those issues and was gaining traction in the data center. “”SDN provides better alignment with the underlying applications, along with improved flexibility and command of the network,” he said. Through SDN models, companies will likely find it easier to implement virtual cloud hosting environments, according to Rohit.
A recent IDC study “SDN Shakes Up the Status Quo in Datacenter Networking“ projected that the SDN market will increase from $360 million in 2013 to $3.7 billion in 2016.
SDN Attributes include:
- Architectural model that leads to network virtualization
- Dynamic exchange between applications and the network
- Delivering programmable interfaces to the network (e.g., OpenFlow, APIs)
- Management abstraction of the topology
- Separation of control and forwarding functions (implemented in different equipment)
Rohit stated that SDN was NOT another name for “Cloud-based Networking” and that they were each in functionally different domains:
- Cloud-based Networking involves emerging network provisioning, configuration and management offerings that leverage cloud Computing and Storage capabilities.
- It’s a “Network As A Service” model that can apply to routers, WLAN, Unified Communications, app delivery, etc.
Rohit expects network equipment and network management vendors to add these capabilities to their platforms in 2013.
Three Emerging SDN Deployment Models are envisioned by IDC:
1. Pure OpenFlow (more on the role of Open Flow later in this article)
- Driven largely by being open and standards-based (by Open Networking Foundation or ONF)
- Inhibited by fluidity of OpenFlow release schedule; limited support in existing switches
- Exemplified by Nicira/VMware’s Network Virtualization Platform (NVP), IBM’s DOVE, others
- Some vendors that started out offering “pure OpenFlow” have adopted overlays (Big Switch Networks)
3. Hybrid (Overlay, OpenFlow, Other Protocols/APIs)
- Put forward by established networking players such as Cisco and Juniper
- Offer SDN controller, with support for distributed control plane for network programmability and virtualization, etc.
SDN vendors are offering SDN solutions from four different perspectives. Many of them solely target one of the four, while others offer a combination of the following:
- SDN enabled switches, routers, and network equipment in the data/forwarding plane
- Software tools and technologies that serve to provide virtualization and control (including vSwitches, controllers, gateways, overlay technologies)
- Network services and applications that involve Layers 4-7, security, network analytics, etc
- Professional service offerings around the SDN eco-system
SDN’s Place In The Datacenter-IDC sees two emerging approaches:
1. Some vendors will push SDN within the framework of converged infrastructure (servers, storage, network, management)
- Appeals to enterprises looking for simplicity, ready integration, and “one throat to choke”
- Vendors include HP, Dell, IBM, Cisco, Oracle and others
2. Some IT vendors will offer a software-defined data center, where physical hardware is virtualized, centrally managed, and treated as an abstracted resource that can by dynamically provisioned/configured.
- Vendors include VMware, Microsoft, perhaps IBM
SDN Will Provide CapEx and OpEx Savings:
- Better control and alignment of virtual and physical resources
- Automated configuration, and management of physical network
- Service agility and velocity
- Move to software/virtual appliances running on x86 hardware can reduce expenditures on proprietary hardware appliances
- Support for network virtualization improves utilization of server and switch hardware
- Potentially cheaper hardware as SDN value chain matures (long-term, not today)
Role of OpenFlow as SDN Matures:
- Initial OpenFlow interest and adoption from research community, cloud service providers (e.g., Google, Facebook) and select enterprise verticals- e.g., education
- Led to successful launch of Open Networking Foundation (ONF)
- Centralized control and programmability is the primary use case- but that may be its limitation
- At a crossroads now- OpenFlow taking time to mature and develop, while alternate solutions are emerging
- As the market for SDN matures, OpenFlow is likely to be one of the many tools and technologies (but not the ONLY protocol to be used between Control plane virtual switches/servers and Data forwarding equipment in the network)
SDN Challenges and Opportunities- For SDN Vendors and Customers:
- Vendors will need to consider adding professional services to their SDN portfolio
- The value chain will benefit from these services early within the market adoption cycle
- Need for SDN certification and training programs to engage partner and customer constituencies and to reduce political friction associated with change
- Education on use cases is critical to getting vendor message across, and for creating broader enthusiasm for change among customers
- Customers must ensure that they have the right mix of skills to evaluate, select, deploy, and manage SDN
- The battle to break down internal silos will intensify alignment of applications and networks means an alignment of teams that run them
1.SDN is rapidly gaining traction as a potentially disruptive technology transition, not seen for a long time in networking
2.SDN is riding the wave of a “Perfect Storm”, with many individual market and technology factors coming together:
- Growth of Cloud Services/Applications
- Focus on converged infrastructures (compute/storage/network)
- Emergence of Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC)
- Lessons learned (and benefits) from server virtualization
3.SDN brings us closer to application and network alignment with next-generation IT
4.Incumbent vendors will need to find the right fit between showing leadership in SDN innovation and balancing existing portfolio investments
Addendum: Software Defined Networks and Large-Scale Network Virtualization Combine to Drive Change in Telecom Networks
In a March 7th press release IDC wrote that SDN along with large-scale network virtualization are two emerging telecom industry technologies that will combine to drive a more software-centric and programmable telecom infrastructure and services ecosystem. These complementary and transformative technologies will have a sustained impact on today’s communication service providers and the way they do business.
“IDC believes that the rapid global growth of data and video traffic across all networks, the increasing use of public and private cloud services, and the desire from consumers and enterprises for faster, more agile service and application delivery are driving the telecom markets toward an inevitable era of network virtualization,” said Nav Chander, Research Manager, Telecom Services and Network Infrastructure, IDC.
“SDN and large-scale network virtualization will become a game shifter, providing important building blocks for delivering future enterprise and hybrid, private, and public cloud services.” he added. Additional findings from IDC’s research includes the following:
- Time to service agility is a key driver for SDN concepts
- Lowering OPEX spend is a bigger driver than lowering CAPEX for CSPs
- Network Function Virtualization and SDN will emerge as key components of both operator service strategies and telecom networking vendor’s product strategies
The IDC study, Will New SDN and Network Virtualization Technology Impact Telecom Networks? (IDC #239399), examines the rapidly emerging software-defined network (SDN) market, the developments in large-scale network virtualization, and a new Network Functions Virtualization ecosystem, which are likely to have an impact on telecom equipment vendors’ and CSP customers’ plans for next-generation wireline and wireless network infrastructure.
IEEE ComSocSCV had the two leaders of the SDN movement talk at one of our technical meetings last year. Their presentations are posted in the 2012 meeting archive section of the chapter website:
Subject: SDN: New Approach to Networking
Subject: The Open Networking Foundation