Software Defined Networking - Top wireline technologies in 2013

Tools

What is it? It is hard to go anywhere these days in the telecom world and not hear someone talking about SDN (software defined networking).

With SDN, an enterprise or service provider network manager has central control of network traffic without having to go out and manually access the hardware device like a router or switch to change how much bandwidth they need for a particular site. SDN separates the control plane from the data plane. The control plane makes decisions about where traffic is sent, while the data plane forwards traffic to the selected destination.

As a form of network virtualization in which the control plane is separated from the data plane and implemented in a software application, SDN has found utility in applications such as cloud-based Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) as part of a consolidated data center.

In the IaaS scenario, businesses and their employees purchase virtual machines (VM) whenever they need to buy them. The VMs are located in the IaaS provider data center, but need to function as if they are organized in groups per IaaS customer.

Why is it important? A key benefit of SDN is the ability to allocate and turn up network resources without having to physically access the network's hardware components. What this means for service providers and enterprises that have distributed offices is they can rapidly provision network resources and potentially reduce costs.

A group of enterprises told Infonetics in a recent survey that they see value in SDN inside the data center for three main reasons: improving virtualization, security, and application performance.

Outside of the data center, SDN is finding utility in the optical networking domain. Cyan Optics' Blue Planet SDN system, for example, incorporates its own apps and other third-party applications, handling everything from planning, configuration and management, through performance verification and billing. What's more, Cyan has element adaptors to control not only their own Z-Series packet-optical transport platforms (P-OTPs), but also other network elements such as Overture Networks' edge devices.

In addition to Cyan, all of the large telecom suppliers, particularly Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Juniper Networks (NYSE: JNPR), have been upping their SDN product lines via acquisitions, creating "spin-in" divisions. Juniper, for example, acquired Contrail Systems for $176 million, while Alcatel-Lucent and Cisco created Nuage and Insieme, respectively. The latest vendor to enter the SDN fray is Tellabs (Nasdaq: TLAB), which announced during its Q4 2012 earnings call that it will unveil its SDN plans at the upcoming Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona.