In my next few blogs, I'll be talking about Software Defined Networks - SDNs. This subject is currently a very hot topic around the networking world.
I'll spend the next few blogs talking about what it is, where the benefits are, and how this change could affect service providers going forward. The hype around what SDNs can and will achieve right now is pretty much without limit.
The underlying principle for SDNs is to separate the conventional networks combined hardware/firmware interface that determines where to ship packets into two items.
One item is the control plane. The control plane is just what the name implies, and it is responsible for the decision as to where the traffic is sent, how much, even if a particular type of traffic should be sent. The other item is the data plane, and it is the layer that is responsible for actually forwarding the traffic based on the rules the control plane has given it.
It is this separation that allows the network to become more nimble. And in the future, beyond just decoupling the control plane and data plane, many SDN vendors promise even more APIs into their network equipment.
On my last blog, I introduced the topic of Software Defined Networks (SDNs). The promises of SDNs are a much more elastic and responsive network infrastructure based on the following:
1) The separation of the control plane from the data plane
I believe SDNs will closely follow the path that Ethernet took from a technology perspective. Ethernet started in the data center with LANs, then moved into metro networks, and finally into a true viable WAN technology. SDN deployments have started and will continue to be deployed in mass in the data centres, and their promised value will be delivered in these environments especially towards single tenant use. According to analyst firm IDC, the worldwide SDN market for the enterprise and cloud service provider segments is forecast to grow from $360 million in 2013 to a robust $3.7 billion by 2016- you can see, SDN is here to stay.
However, an area worth debating is how deep SDNs can or will go in a service provider's network. Once you introduce multi tenancy, the technical complexity of which features to support to ensure you can meet most customer needs will be a challenge. Then once you get that done, how do you properly build and test something that is designed to be very dynamic on a large scale like a service provider's network? When you restrict the problem to single tenancy, and a well understood feature set, SDNs will help revolutionize how networks adapt.
John Hayduk is President, Product Management and Service Development, Tata Communications.
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