SDN/NVF A Work In Progress… And What Progress!

The math is simple: plus plus the plus mean networks – datacenter, and at the edge – must handle bigger workloads faster, and IT budgets can’t even come close to addressing these requirements with current technologies. Which brings us to this week’s OpenDaylight Summit, where and will be trumpeted as the technologies that can solve this equation. Whose vision(s) of SDN and NFV will prevail is still very much in question, but what isn’t is the need, and the progress that has been made so far.

There are four use cases for SDN/NFV, said Neela Jacques, Executive Director, OpenDaylight, in a phone interview with IT Trends & Analysis. The first is visibility and a better level of unification and orchestration, and while it’s the ‘least sexy’, it represents the biggest opportunity over the next 3-4 years. Customers “are frustrated with existing network management”.

The other three use cases are: “trying to do real time management of your network, which is closest to what we consider traditional SDN”; NFV; and the fourth is cloud. Each of these use cases bleed into each other, he said.

“At the same time that SDN and NFV are coming up, you’re seeing a shift from proprietary to open-based solutions.” Which leads us to ODL.

‘OpenDaylight is a highly available, modular, extensible, scalable and multi-protocol controller infrastructure built for SDN deployments on heterogeneous multi-vendor networks. In English, instead of jargon, OpenDaylight is meant to handle any level of networking with pretty much any software or hardware. With top backers such as Brocade, Cisco, Intel, and Juniper, OpenDaylight has the business support needed to back up its technical boasts.’

Back in May Jacques stated that the networking industry has embraced open source as the right path forward for SDN, and that OpenDaylight has become the industry’s “de facto standard” open source SDN project. There are over 300 developers working across company lines to deliver a common and interoperable SDN and NFV platform that anyone can see, contribute to and use. ODL members include Brocade, Cisco, Dell, , Intel, , Ericsson, Huawei, , , Microsoft and VMware.

A month ago ODL announced Lithium, its third open SDN software release. It also announced the OpenDaylight Advisory Group (AG), consisting of enterprise, telco and academic users who will provide technical input to the OpenDaylight developer community. Foundational members include representatives from Telefónica I+D; AT&T; Orange; CableLabs; JArizona State University; Comcast; Caltech; China Telecom; Nasdaq; Deutsche Telekom; T-Mobile; and China Mobile.

According to recent numbers from IHS Infonetics:

-the global NFV hardware, software and services market will reach $11.6 billion in 2019 (with over 80% of that being software), up from $2.3 billion in 2015;

-35% of operators will deploy NFV this year; and,

-the datacenter and enterprise SDN market will grow more than 15-fold by 2019.

Cisco is very much aware of just what SDN and NFV mean to its bottom line, and future as networking’s leading vendor. It’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is leading the company’s SDN response, although it is only one element of a three-pronged approach to software-defined, programmable, application-centric networks, said Ish Limkakeng, VP Product Management, Insieme business unit, Cisco. While ACI has the most traction, there are also programmable fabric and programmable network, so customers can go with Cisco-based hardware, or a software overlay on other vendors’ switches, he said.

A number of Cisco’s customers are claiming significant returns already, including Symantec:

-5-year ROI: 441%;

-5-year total business benefits: $145 million;

-average annual business benefits over 5 years with Cisco ACI: IT infrastructure cost reduction – $10.08M; risk mitigation and business productivity – $25.27M; IT staff productivity – $8.50M;

-payback period: 11 months;

-reduction in time of application development life cycle: 87%; and,

-improved network operation staff efficiency: 79%.

Other benefits included: 87% faster application development life cycle; zero unplanned Cisco ACI–related downtime; 40 times more network backbone bandwidth; and 79% more efficient network operations and engineering once fully deployed . “We don’t look at deploying Cisco ACI as a network refresh but as a way of changing how our datacenters operate,” said Vince Spina, VP of IT, Global Network Infrastructure and Data Center Services , Symantec, in a prepared statement.

Pushing at Cisco’s heels are a variety of networking competitors, as well as EMC/VMware and system vendors like HP and Dell. HP and Cisco – along with Juniper, Microsoft and VMware – were identified as the top 5 SDN vendors. Infonetics also reported that the Data Center and Enterprise SDN market soared 192% in one year.

While HP’s aspirations to bury Cisco won’t come to fruition any time soon, it is heading in the right direction, according to Technology Business Research, which recently predicted that Cisco will continue to dominate the growing enterprise networking market, which will swell to $99 billion by 2018. However, while Cisco occupies the No. 1 position across the board, TBR noted that HP is the only other vendor to crack the top 10 in all 5 market segments

Finally, there’s Dell. According to CTO Paul Perez, formerly at both Cisco and HP, everybody’s looking for speed to value. “About 60% of the companies we talk to have IT budgets that are flat or declining.” So in a world where total cost of ownership — not just the lowest purchase price — is becoming more important, Dell is gathering momentum, he said.

Dell has been pushing the software defined networking (SDN) agenda for the last few years, in addition to NFV and open networking standards, and that falls under Tom Burns, VP and GM, Dell Networking and Enterprise Infrastructure. For the most part, the market is focused on trials. Some customers want to jump on it right away, but he said most are just trying to figure out the implications.

The market appears to be broken into two camps: companies with CTOs are exploring SDN, while traditional IT shops aren’t. Burns expects the market to continue to grow, but the real growth won’t take place for another 18-24 months.

While both users and vendors are touting the new technologies’ impact on their capabilities for making network management faster and easier, cutting costs is also imperative. At AT&T’s recent earnings call, the carrier said it expects the SDN rollout will cut its capital expenditure.

Further into the future, however, Stephens expects SDN to squeeze CapEx, even though he said the main reason for the build (known as “Domain 2.0”) is to make a more flexible network.

“Our move to next generation networks is starting to make a real difference”, said John Stephens, Senior Executive VP and CFO, AT&T. “I think there’s a real opportunity with some of the opportunities that are happening on a software-defined basis to bring that investment down”.

With momentum growing behind SDN and NFV, it’s not a question of if, but when. By 2020, the combined revenue impact of SDN, NFV, network virtualization and other next-generation networking initiatives will exceed $105 billion per year.

Author: Steve Wexler

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