Path to SDN wide open to interpretation

20 March 2013 |

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At Capacity Latam 2013, a technology workshop was held in Sao Paulo by Capacity Conferences with sponsorship from NTT Communications and Cyan.

At Capacity Latam 2013, a technology workshop was held in Sao Paulo by Capacity Conferences with sponsorship from NTT Communications and Cyan.

What made this technology workshop different from most is that instead of bringing together technicians from across the industry to discuss general network and operational management issues, the workshop instead honed in on some of the technical complexities surrounding SDN. By gaining the perspectives of both the technology vendor (Cyan) and global ISP (NTT Communications), the workshop aimed to provide a complete operational overview.

What became immediately clear from the day-long session is that the definition of SDN and the path towards the ‘networks of tomorrow’ is still wide open to interpretation. Elements of SDN have in fact existed in NTT Communications’ network for several years now. Its NOC is presently building on an existing set of automation and configuration tools, the majority of which it has developed in-house.

In spite of SDN being a relatively new industry phenomenon, for some the technology appears to be part of an ongoing evolution to network and operational management systems, rather than a dramatic overhaul. As Wesley Strong, global IP NOC manager at NTT Communications, puts it: “Our system wouldn’t work for everyone... the way our tools were developed was with our engineers in mind.”

Part of the workshop examined how operators can learn to decide between developing in-house automation tools and purchasing them off-the-shelf. In NTT’s case, its customer database, statistics analysis system and network weather map are ‘home grown’, but its network management system is purchased off-the-shelf. Shawn Morris, manager of IP development, global IP network at NTT Communications, sees the network management system as “the eyes and ears for the network operation staff” while the SDN system “is the brain”.

Integrating network management systems and SDN could be just one of the many challenges facing operators as networks continue to evolve. The scale and technical complexities of this challenge may differ according to the network idiosyncrasies of each operator, but by identifying these issues early and using workshops such as these to share ideas and discussion, operators are in a stronger position to successfully find their own individual path towards SDN.