SDN, NFV, Elastic Networks: Big Deal for Business or Just 'Buzzword Bingo'?

Posted on

There are a lot of new concepts bubbling under in the world of Digital Infrastructure, Cloud and Networks: Software Defined Networking (SDN), Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV), and Elastic Networks to name but a few. But what does it all mean at a business level?

At the EMEA Brainstorm in London, 5-6 June, Cisco's Paolo Campoli joined peers from Telco 2.0, Amazon, Verizon, Trend Micro, Tekelec, plus representatives from other leading EMEA telcos and tech players, to explore the business benefits and opportunities that could and should be driven by the latest developments in Digital Infrastructure (email for more). This guest post by Paolo's colleagues lays out the four key themes of Cisco's vision of future networks.

There aren't many people who question whether or not networks need to become more programmable. Software Defined Networks (SDN) will bring many new technologies. Cisco is actively driving the concept of SDN across broad industry efforts in forums, standards bodies and opensource communities, like Open Networking Foundation (ONF), OpenStack, Network Function Virtualization (NFV), IEEE, IETF, ITU, OpenDaylight and many others. The bigger issue however is about what people want to be able to do on programmable networks and how we make that happen.

"Saving Money" and "Making Money" are the primary motivations. As discussed at the previous events by STL Partners, "The Hunger Gap" forces SPs to streamline operations to make networks more efficient. There are many new tools and technologies that achieve just that. However, the next step is to break out of that gap. SPs are looking for capabilities that help to monetize their network services and assets in new ways that are dictated by the new digital economy. The key objective here is to "Bring the Network to Applications". Service Providers need to harvest the intelligence in their networks, which today is untapped to a very large extent. We outlined the requirements and opportunities that the "Internet of Everything" brings to service providers networks in a recent blog by Sanjeev Mervana, Cisco's Senior Director of Marketing for Service Provider Business "Programmable Networks Will Power the Internet of Everything)".

The essence is that the Internet of Everything is not just built upon a single technology or domain. It is about a future that is highly interconnected where everything is intertwined and sharing data creating entirely new business opportunities, applications and services. The Cisco ONE vision looks at programmability in a very broad manner to maximize its value and impact. There are four key elements to this vision.

1. "Programmability" is more than just being able to program networks. It's also about the ability to extract useful information from the network itself and making it available to applications to use in real-time. We call this a "dynamic feedback loop". Applications and the network work much better when they can work together and this means being able to share information in both directions.

2. There are a number of technologies proposed in the industry that enable programmability: APIs, controllers and agents and virtualization. The Cisco ONE vision sees a tremendous value in developing and deploying all of these together in a single concerted effort to fully unleash the potential of network programmability, rather than just using one or the other. We call this the "Power of AND".

3. A key aspect that Cisco ONE is pioneering is "multilayer programmability". Service Provider networks, like Wide Area Networks (WAN), are very different from the network that you will find as part of the data center. Rather than being fully meshed with unlimited bandwidth, service provider networks and WANs are very complex, layered and segmented and bandwidth is the most precious resource therein. In an early blog Cisco's CTO and Chief Architect David Ward discussed this as just one of many technical details as to why service provider networks are different from Data Centers. You can find more on this in his blog: "Software Defined Networking for Service Providers: Data Center Fabric Analogies breakdown in the WAN".

4. The fourth objective of Cisco's ONE vision is for programmable networks to achieve full "Cross Domain Support" across mobility, video and cloud. Today's applications are running in the cloud, leveraging all assets. Programmable networks need to be built for this from the very start.

The CISCO ONE vision combines elements from Software Defined Networking (SDN) and increments this suite of capabilities with multi-plane programmability, analytics, orchestration, automation, platform APIs and many more to deliver a more comprehensive solution that helps service providers realize more value from their networks.

cisco one elastic networks june 2013.png