Insights from BCC Research

SDN is the Key to Meeting Expanding Network Demands

Posted by Clayton Luz on Jul 13, 2016 6:00:00 AM

Every year the Federal Forum brings together leaders from government and the tech industry to discuss the latest trends in security, mobility, IoT, big data, and machine learning. The government IT modernization conference, which was held on June 14 in Washington, D.C., presented 30 subject matter experts who discussed how to modernize the federal network infrastructure and help government agencies meet their missions.

 
The key takeaway message from the forum: software-defined infrastructure will be critical to meeting expanding network demands. 
 
“It’s all about the interconnects between our servers and switches and devices, and how quickly can we adapt,” said Brian Carnell, U.S. Postal Service manager for enterprise access infrastructure, told Wyatt Kash.
 
The USPS’ network continues to evolve, as evidenced by its experimentation with ring scanners using near-field communications to capture package barcodes, Carnell said. According to him, every 33 minutes the USPS network moves the equivalent of the Library of Congress’ content, in addition to supporting more than 30,000 mobile phones, 300,000 mobile scanning devices and 32,000 post offices.
 
“Our edge is spreading at an enormous rate. It changes almost every week, with nearly 1.5 million objects right now,” he said. 
 
Its system will have to integrate software-defined networking capabilities in order to meet the capacity demanded by its devices and corresponding network, Carnell told Kash. “Our infrastructure was scaled out, but we needed it to be more compact, and be able to scale up. SDN is a big part of that.”
 
WHAT IS SDN?
 
Software-defined networking (SDN) is a new form of networking architecture created to change the networking industry and the way the networking business has performed for years, says BCC Research analyst Anand Gijare.
 
“SDN is the latest approach in a series of programmable network developments after network virtualization (NV) and network function virtualization (NFV),” Gijare explains. “All three approaches to networking aim to reduce the amount of time required to deploy the network while reducing the costs of networking infrastructure. In addition, the resulting network can be more easily scaled and provide flexibility for deployments in the cloud, data center or for fixed and mobile broadband services.”
 
WHAT DEFINES AN SDN NETWORK?
 
Gijare says that an SDN network must use software to:
 
  • Define management and administration of incoming and outgoing traffic.
  • Sets rules for traffic forwarding, event notification and statistical reporting.
  • Allow access and the manipulation of the forwarding plane.
  • Define patterns of application development and usage.
  • Work as an agent between communication protocols and infrastructure at southbound interfaces and applications using northbound application program interfaces (APIs).
  • Possess flexibility to accommodate a variety of diversified applications.
  • Provide consistent APIs to the client.
 
“SDN and its predecessor network virtualization are popular because they promise increased cost savings and flexibility by replacing manual provisioning, controlling and servicing of communications infrastructure with automation,” he says. “Cloud service providers that leverage automation to deliver high-scale services at low cost demonstrated the first proof of the value of these approaches. Now nearly every network provider and enterprise is considering or implementing the technology.”
 
SDN uses virtualization software to decouple the control logic from the forwarding function, creating independent control and data planes. The approach still requires hardware, but now the virtual control and forwarding functions can work with a variety of open systems, as well as generally lower-cost hardware. In addition, adding applications to manage network traffic is made easier by allowing the control plane to interact directly with the application logic of new services. The key mediator or orchestrator between the applications, control plane and data plane is the SDN controller.
 
SDN IS NOT A SINGLE TECHNOLOGY
 
SDN reduces dependence on proprietary systems, opens the network to new third-party applications, and opens the door for open source and commodity hardware. But it also introduces a new set of software and hardware into the network.
 
In sum, SDN is not a single technology, but rather a convergence of various software and hardware components, abstractions, services and functions under a single architecture, explains Gijare, adding “it’s far from a plug-and-play installation.”  He believes that adding features and simplifying its complexity will drive the dynamic development of SDN through 2020.
 
SDN HAS ADDED MEANING FOR THE U.S. ARMY
 
Kash also noted in his report from the 2016 Federal Forum, which was hosted by Brocade and produced by FedScoop, that “addressing network capabilities to the edge has added meaning for the Army, said Maj. Gen. Garrett Yee.”
 
“The edge for us is the soldier at the forward edge of the battlefield. We have sensors on our soldiers, networked radios — so the edge is always changing,” he said. “Our strategy for 2025 and beyond does call for SDN and software defined data centers,” he said. But part of that strategy envisions increased data processing at the edge and what Yee described as distributed intelligence capabilities. “We do have a lot of centralized data analytics,” he said. “But as we push networks out there, sensors need to do some analytics before they push data back.”
 
Randy Hahn, Verizon’s association director, public sector solutions, told Kash that Verizon began to plan for SDN in 2010, and incorporated it into the company’s own systems two years ago. SDN not only helps agencies manage risk in virtualized cloud environments, but also helps enable managed services within secure enclaves, Hahn told Kash.
 
SDN ADOPTION AND GLOBAL OUTLOOK
 
Gijare says that The “hockey-stick” nature of revenue growth for SDN is predicated on the fact that before 2016, broad adoption beyond the cloud and some network providers was minimal. However, the proven value these early adopters are generating will result in a massive uptake of the technology as networks of all kinds transform to a more cost-effective solution. This adoption will be equally driven by end users who seek greater value for their network investments and suppliers that migrate their product lines to SDN and retire traditional systems.
 
He anticipates the global SDN market to experience massive growth through 2020. Markets in all regions are expected to react positively to SDN solutions. The global SDN market is estimated to reach $56.1 billion by 2020 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 88.1%.

Topics: Information Technology