SDN is a hot topic

With Software Defined Networking (SDN) generating a lot of interest at MWC, there are plenty of approaches jockeying for position. Networking equipment vendor Juniper Networks recently came out with its own contribution and a four-step approach to implementing the concept.

Juniper comes from the traditional IP networking world, following the transition to IP in the telco space and the company believes there are just four steps in the transition to SDN. These are: extract services; centralise management; centralise controller; and optimise the hardware.

Mike Marcellin, SVP, strategy & marketing at Juniper, told telecoms.com that so far “SDN has focused on the separation of the forwarding and control plane, and while that’s important we need to address the superset of what traditionalists call SDN. The challenges that both operators and enterprises face in terms of what SDN can solve, encompass all four layers.”

Separation of the layers, which some refer to as ‘abstraction’, just means that each layer can innovate independently   one layer is not tethered to another, allowing for better centralisation.

“You must centralise what you can and distribute what you must. This is the most efficient way of running network services,” Marcellin said.

Juniper’s product portfolio announcement this week is designed to help operators build the foundation for SDN, with elastic capacity and faster service delivery, while lowering overall capital and operating expenses. The Services Activation Director enables service providers to provision services including multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and Carrier Ethernet for mobile backhaul much more rapidly.

According to Marcellin, the biggest use case for the Services Activation Director will be deployment in mobile backhaul to get users’ sessions from the cell tower to the service part of the network where the operator can identify the user and what they’re doing.

“There is a huge opportunity for centralised management – to manage the network as a single entity,” he said. “Yes you’ll still be managing each individual component, but you can get a top level view of the network. And you must leverage cloud techniques wherever you can: Scalability, elasticity, and usage-based allocation. This gives you better management of resources.”

The central theme of SDN is to use generic processing wherever possible and keep that in a cloud environment where it is virtualised – splitting networking and security services from the underlying hardware by creating the service on virtual machines.

Juniper’s Mobile Control Gateway is now available as a virtualised function running on the JunosV App Engine, providing signalling and control functions to LTE, 3G and 2G radio access networks.

“Deploying services on the operator’s networking gear is still a major challenge. Writing the app to work on the underlying OS of the device is troublesome. But now we can take the native programming language and port it in a few weeks rather than months or a year. You get more rapid services deployment,” Marcellin said.

“Starting with a common network OS makes management much easier too. If you have a service that runs on one part of your portfolio but not another it’s difficult to implement if you have to work in multiple languages. So SDN certainly is cost saver. But in terms of driving revenues, operators can get faster time to revenue –it’s the same dollar they would get, but it comes months earlier.”


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