NSPs Shine at ONS 2013

We attended Open Networking Summit 2013 this week at the Santa Clara convention center and I wanted to share a few takeaways for the network service provider space, and Bob Laliberte may do the same for enterprise and data center. Related, Wayne Pauley covered openstack-analyst-day-4152013-portland-oregon/index.html" target="_blank">OpenStack in Portland, Oregon.

ONS is a high-stakes SDN technology market development conference attended by both executives and architects from a range of large and small technology suppliers, service providers, and investors, with a sprinkling of enterprises and media/analysts from across the globe. The big-tent sessions were all packed, as was the exhibit hall. The ONS registration folks claimed over 1,500 paid attendees, but there were many more folks lurking ‘offsite’ as it was the place to be to get a peek into the future of networking as it unfolds. There was a definite feel of buy-in by all to cast off legacy approaches to architecting networks with closed, proprietary systems toward a more open, agile and distributed ‘clean sheet of paper’ approach.

A common theme among speakers was to refine SDN’s definition and purpose as a control plane technology, often with SDN trials and proposed SDN use cases for control plane abstraction to match innovations in server virtualization, open software and applications occurring at higher layers. The opening keynote by Google’s Vint Cerf put SDN in historical perspective, and he confirmed Google has implemented OpenFlow in its data centers. Arista’s Jayshree Ullal and HP Networking’s Bethany Mayer offered high level SDN visions and potential roadmaps along with discussion of OpenDaylight. Intel CSIG’s Rose Schooler announced several SDN reference designs which included a foray into the network data plane. Following them were speakers from Big Switch, DT, VMware, Huawei, IBM, Microsoft, Ericsson, NTT Communications, Cisco, Internet2, Verizon, Juniper, eBay, Stanford University, ONF, Tail-f, NEC, Goldman Sachs, Fidelity and others, many of which described practical use cases for SDN technology. SDN is proving pervasive throughout network use cases, with several new security and campus wireless applications described.

Network service providers were very ‘front and center’ at this ONS, driven by the urgent need to more cost-effectively scale rapidly growing networks in a competitive environment of at best modest revenue growth (i.e.,- the ‘ Scissor’ diagram caused by all us folks streaming Netflix at 9pm!). NSPs see the potential of SDN as a new service enabler and for network efficiency improvement, and are already accustomed to independent control planes from their experience with SS7, BISDN and GMPLS. Further to SDN’s end, an optical networking working group was announced to explore packet-optical integration with OpenFlow, which is chaired by Ciena.

Separately, a group of NSPs are exploring what they call Network Function Virtualization (NFV) through an ETSI Industry Specification Group which meets next week in Santa Clara behind mostly closed doors. NFV is exploring virtualizing proprietary network appliances in new carrier-class data center environments, similar to what is already occurring in virtualized enterprise networks and at leading cloud service providers. Their first focus area is the 3GPP defined mobile core where many server-like network elements reside and bandwidth demand is modest compared with landline networks.

In closing, ONS 2013 demonstrated strong industry support and commitment to deliver dynamic and programmable networks, and the technologies and products to support them. We expect SDN-enabled product announcements for Interop Las Vegas next month.

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Topics: IT Infrastructure Networking Enterprise Mobility