SDN and NFV technologies are such powerful technologies, that they could change how networks face some of their most challenging current and future issues. The truth of the matter is, today’s networks were designed for a few million connections – primarily voice-oriented – not for billions of voice and data connections that are, in many cases, carried out in real time.
Let’s take a closer look at these two concepts and how their impact on telecommunications networks.
IoT is today at the center of any near-future communications talk. Read this blog post to find out how CSPs can manage the challenges.
What is SDN?
Software-defined networks (SDNs) are a way of architecting networks in such way that network automation is a central concept. One way to achieve this is to move away from hardware and give it to a software application called controller.
When a packet arrives at a switch in a conventional network, the rules integrated into the firmware owner of the switch tell the switch where to transfer the packet. The switch sends each packet to the same destination on the same path – and treats all packets in exactly the same way. In the enterprise, smart switches designed with application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) are sophisticated enough to recognize different types of packets and treat them differently, but these switches can be quite costly.
In a software-defined network, a network administrator can shape traffic from a centralized control console without having to touch individual switches. The administrator can change any rule of network switches when necessary – giving or removing priority, or even blocking specific types of packets with a very detailed level of control.
This is especially useful in a multi-tenant architecture of cloud computing because it allows the administrator to handle traffic loads in a flexible and more efficient way. Essentially, this allows the managed user to use fewer small and expensive switches and have more control than ever before over the flow of network traffic.
The SDN is sometimes referred to as the “Cisco killer”, because it allows network engineers to support a company switching through multiple vendors’ hardware and application-specific integrated circuits. Currently, the most popular specification for creating a software-defined network is an open standard called OpenFlow. OpenFlow allows network administrators to remotely control routing tables.
What is NFV?
Network Virtualization (NFV) is an initiative to virtualize network services that are now performed by dedicated, proprietary hardware. NFV will decrease the amount of proprietary hardware needed to power up and operate network services.
The purpose of NFV is to disassociate network functions from dedicated hardware devices and allow network services that are now performed by routers, firewalls, load balancers, and other dedicated hardware devices to be hosted on virtual machines (VMs) . Once the network functions are under the control of a hypervisor, services that used to require dedicated hardware can be performed on standard x86 servers.
This capability is important because it means that network administrators no longer need to purchase dedicated hardware devices to build a service chain. Because server capacity can be added through software, there will be no need for network administrators to provision their data centers, which will reduce both capital (CAPEX) and OPEX (operational jacks) costs.
If an application running on a VM requires more bandwidth, for example, the administrator can move the virtual machine to another physical server or provision another VM on the original server to take part in the load. Having this flexibility will enable the IT department to respond more quickly to changing business objectives and network service demands.
Differences Between SDN and NFV
The purpose of separating a control plane from a data plane network that forwards network traffic is to create a network that is centrally managed and programmable. There are SDN implementations that use a software-based management platform that controls the hardware of the commodity network. The technology is used primarily in enterprise data centers for customers who demand a network that can more easily adapt to business needs compared to traditional network architectures. SDN also has several subcategories, including the software-defined wide area network, or the use of SDN for microsegment network traffic for security reasons.
The great advantage of these two combined systems is, mainly, adaptability. Unlike the current model, a network that uses SDN and NFV can modify many of its operating parameters dynamically, adapting to the circumstances of each specific moment. And, as I mentioned at the beginning, this will be crucial in the coming years, since we can expect that the evolution of the Internet of Things will force large network operators to adapt their infrastructures, since in their current state they will not be able to properly manage all the huge traffic data that is to come.
Virtualization and Machine Learning are knocking at operators doors. Here are 3 challenges that these technologies are called to solve.