For the first time since perhaps the late 80’s, there is a big change in the works for the core of the Internet. Software Defined Networks will greatly effect the way packets flow from sources to destinations.
There is at least one new local start-up building SDN hardware, but there are a number of other companies watching closely as projects like “Open Daylight” produce SDN network simulators and controllers.
I recently downloaded an open daylight VM and experimented with mininet to create my own virtual SDN network. The simulator takes advantage of Linux’s ability to define virtual Ethernet ports on a single physical interface, allowing it to create any number of virtual SDN switches. The virtual switches then connect to the SDN controller to send and receive flow information so they can route network traffic.
Mininet allows developers to combine simulated and real network elements to create large SDN networks that are currently used to test controller flow definitions as well as physical devices.
The SDN definition is still changing, but it has a huge following and if I were a traditional network equipment vendor, I would be concerned. Large service providers are aware of the benefits of SDN, are very displeased with the business practices of the incumbent vendors. This could create a perfect storm similar to what happened shortly after the deregulation of the telephone companies in the early 80’s.
The combination of flexible flow definitions, higher network throughput and lower network element costs, offset the risks of working with new players. Service providers want to be able to identify and control the data that moves through their networks and SDN will provide that control.
Many OAM&P vendors are adding support for SDN to their current product offerings. This will make configuring SDN controllers and integrating with Billing and support systems a very manageable extension to their current operating procedures.
When will the change happen? That is anyone’s guess, but I would suggest that given the current rate of development and the eager acceptance of early systems by large service providers, vendor selections will be made in the next 12 months.