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SDN Pioneers Limit Risk to Maximize Payoff

Major service providers are pushing forward with deployments of that red hot dynamic duo – software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) – but they are restricting those deployments to limited areas and focusing on where they can generate new services and, therefore, new cash, according to research from Infonetics.

But one place virtualization won’t be seen for possibly another three years is in the optical network, says Michael Howard, principal analyst and co-founder of Infonetics and author of the report, SDN and NFV Strategies: Global Service Provider Survey.

Despite major efforts on that front, the need for standards will prevent SDN from being deployed in the optical network until at least 2016.

Based on interviews with 21 service providers scattered around the globe, Howard sees the earliest commercialization of SDN/NFV in “contained domains,” with the primary driver being the need to generate new services more quickly. Thus, virtualization is showing up first in the data center — where it is relatively easy to deploy — as well as between data centers, in content delivery networks (CDNs) and in cloud services.

NTT was the first service provider into the SDN pool and remains the most visible, in terms of commercial deployments, but a number of other providers are just starting or are close to starting, Howard notes. For example, Deutsche Telekom is piloting its TeraStream project, which incorporates SDN, in its Croatian subsidiary, Hrvatski Telekom. Japanese service provider KVH is launching as well. (See SDN Nothing New at NTT and Deutsche Telekom Selects Tail-F)

Other service providers that have announced SDN deployments or pilots include Telefonica, Telus,Telstra and Portugal Telecom.

Howard says there is a second group of major operators behind this first tier that is moving a bit more cautiously — he puts Verizon in this bunch — followed by a third tier that has SDN/NFV in its lab environments and a fourth group that is still in “wait and see” mode. Many of this last group is in developing areas where there is major growth in basic services taking place and developments such as SDN are still largely a distraction on the distant horizon.

For those service providers moving forward on SDN, there is a fifth area being targeted for deployments and that is operations and management. Howard says that’s an area of focus because service providers realize they need a single view of the network that spans equipment from multiple vendors if they are going to be able to deploy services more quickly. Setting up SDN control in a layer that operates above the vendor-specific management devices is one way to create greater efficiency without ripping out major parts of the network.

Service providers have talked a lot about SDN in the optical network, and they are working hard in that realm, Howard says. He points to the fact that the Open Networking Foundation actually has a working group devoted to optical networking as one sign of how serious things are on that front. If all goes well, standards will be available in 18 months and deployments possible a year later.

Source: lightreading