Paradigm Changes: Network Infrastructure III

The two interpretation of SDN: SD Network as seen mostly by Operators affecting the Core Network topology by leveraging on network equipment flexibility and SDNetworking involving the edges and leveraging on the flexibility of the edges.

3. Network and Networking Decoupled

It seemed impossible, just thirty years ago that a service can be provided without a coordination with the network and yet this is what has happened. And there is no way back.

Increasing revenue by providing more services is no longer an option for Telecom Operators (although they are still, stubbornly, trying … ). On the other hand there is still a considerable gap between the actual use of the network and its potential. Closing this gap would result in lower cost, hence increased margins. No surprise that Telecom Operators are looking into it. Software can provide the required flexibility in managing and allocating network resources and this is what SDN, Software Defined Network, is trying to do.

At the same time the network is expanding from its termination points into local networks that are owned by third parties (both wireless networks like the one provided by Starbucks to their customers or fixed/wireless network deployed within an enterprise). These local networks are growing in number and in strength. The number of homes having a local network is growing, as creating these networks is more and more seamless. And people are using their own network to shuffle data from one device to another. These networks can easily grow, again in a seamless way. You can use an AirPort from Apple and the network is up and running, you can add another Airport, and it seamlessly connects and extend the network reach.

And, of course, you can join your network with the one of your neighbour…to create even larger networks (having more capacity and broader extension).

Smartphones and computers are creating networks around them (hot spots) and can exchange information via these network and serve as gateway to other devices.

GM has announced the availability of in car WiFi networks in their new car model (many cars already have a Bluetooth area) and it is but a small step to see cars connecting one another and thus creating networks.

Research is going on the improve the flexibility of these networks via Software, and this is done with SDN, Software Defined NETWORKING. Please note the difference. It is so subtle (although it separates two worlds apart) that many working in the telecommunications area are using them interchangeably. And yet, nothing could be more different True they are using the same flexibility embedded in network elements to achieve a better utilisation of the network resources but their aim and reach is quite different.

The SDNetwork stems from the public network itself (although it can be applied to the management of enterprise networks) and has the Network (and the Network Owner / Telecom Operator) in control and aims at better efficiency of the global (owned) network to serve all types of demands that it is receiving and will likely be receiving. The SDNeworking stems from the edges and without ownership of any network resources, apart from a few at the edges (like a smartphone, a local cash, a gateway) works to establish end to end connection path that maximises from a local perspectives the features required by that particular service at that particular time.

Networking (how to get from A to B) is getting decoupled from the Network. The unthinkable is just being discussed in terms of how and when. The age of transparent pipes is dawning, and that will once more change the rules of the game and the telecommunications business landscape.

Author - Roberto Saracco

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