Update from TIA 2013 - The Future of the Network
The Federal government may be in a partial shutdown but TIA 2013 "The Future of the Network" was up and running last week in Washington DC. Here are some observations from the show.
Automating and Abstracting the Network
At the TIA event, there was a lot of talk about SDN, and much of it focused on automation. I took part in a panel on "SDN Cloud Perspective: Virtualization and Automation" that was moderated by Christos Kolias of Orange and included Cisco's Brian Davis, Stuart Mackie from Juniper and John Healy of Intel. In addition to discussing how SDN can facilitate and expand cloud services, I made the point that we need to provide a more abstract view of today's heterogeneous network to facilitate the creation of APIs for automation. Supporting the "legacy" part of the network is critical because that it the revenue-generating part.
Revenue Growth in Addition to Cost-Cutting
SDN and NFV provide many opportunities to cut CAPEX and OPEX, and early deployments will likely be justified on the basis of ROI analyses of these factors. In the longer term, these technologies must contribute to revenue growth. This means that the new offerings from hardware and software suppliers must be aimed at areas and/or be built in such a way as to facilitate faster and easier service creation
The combination of tools like NFV and the power of SDN-enabled automation enable some interesting possibilities. Some examples include:
- The creation of on-demand cloud services accessed via private lines with guaranteed bandwidth and QoS
- Faster deployment of E-Access services via NNIs for cross-carrier services
- The ability of a service provider to expose some of the SDN-type controls to enable a very powerful network-as-a-service offering.
Hot Areas for Development
The overall volume of discussion on SDN and NFV was a bit overwhelming. Here were a few items that stood out.
- Services are a growth area. James Feger of CenturyLink said that "service integration is an opportunity in the new SDN world because of complexity."
- There will be a need for cross-domain (data center to WAN/Metro) cross-generational orchestration to effectively extend the cloud beyond the data center and to support NFV.
- Openness is a critical aspect of NFV and SDN deployments. It will probably drive volume but not net revenue growth for suppliers. Even so, it will be necessary for suppliers to embrace open implementations such as OpenStack and Open Daylight because of the service provider demand for those solutions.
- One panel was discussing the effect of cloud and NFV on BGP. Their view is that BGP will be useful in cloud and NFV deployments. My view is that NFV may lead to the death of standalone routers, but along with cloud will lead to a routing renaissance.
Outlook for SDN and NFV
There was a consensus that SDN and NFV are both hot and are getting a lot of attention, but that carrier deployments of NFV will come sooner than for SDN. One limiting factor in the near term for NFV is the performance of virtualized functions. According to Feger they are not yet matching the performance of dedicated appliances, but they should when the next generation of servers arrives.
I heard a great line comparing SDN and NFV, saying that SDN is like smart plumbing that can be changed on command, while NFV is like a soft appliance that can be installed on demand.