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Software-Defined Networking

SDN: Virtualize, economize, monetize

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) has captured the attention of the world as a promising and viable solution to some of the increasingly urgent bottlenecks facing network operators today such as how to boost network capacity swiftly and flexibly and how to ensure smooth connectivity across increasingly complex networks and clouds for global users who are often on the move. Not only that, but, as networks are used for more and more tasks of varying complexity, all of this needs to be done in a more efficient and cost-effective way. SDN is a form of network virtualization that separates the control plane from the data plane and implements it in a software application. To date, NEC has concentrated its efforts on accelerating the development and adoption of SDN solutions for data centers using OpenFlow technology based ProgrammableFlow. NEC believes that SDN can achieve high value added networks through the use of virtualization techniques.

Network operators have to contend with a much broader range of issues these days. Naturally, financial considerations are vital and operators must seek to reduce capital and operating expenditures. Operators must fulfill their social responsibilities by ensuring energy-efficient systems and effective disaster relief functions, while pursuing technical innovations that can boost network speed and capacity. At the same time, they must provide the flexibility and scalability for increasing value-added services to boost profits and monetize user traffic.  There are basically two broad factors here: first, the need to boost the efficiency of network equipment, and, second, the need to carve new revenue-generating and value-added mechanisms. SDN virtualization has emerged and evolved as a means of fulfilling these two needs.

In recent years, internet protocols have become increasingly integrated and now the need to respond to the rapid increase in data traffic has compelled operators to seek ways to further advance and evolve their networks. This underlying need is fuelling the development of high value-added networking such as SDN virtualization—networking solutions that can achieve the sophisticated functionality and high efficiency required to offer and support high value-added services. By applying network virtualization technology, operators can allocate resources more effectively in order to meet the demands of users and service providers and also boost the efficiency of their equipment. Optimizing and visualizing user traffic also makes network operations more stable by smoothing congestion and connectivity control. Furthermore, if you can visualize users’ quality of experience then you can also generate new sources of revenue by improving convenience for the user and monetizing traffic. NEC’s ProgrammableFlow is a leading solution that is already able to visualize networks and virtualize servers and is currently being introduced commercially into corporate networks and data centers. A broad-based introduction of SDN would facilitate the expansion of virtualization technology and the creation of value-added business.

Developing an SDN business involves the deployment of physical infrastructure, a network controller and a telecoms operating management system which combines operation and business support systems. The network controller is central to SDN with two main functions: virtual resource control and traffic management systems (TMS). The network controller can create a programmable, logical network that allocates resources within the physical network (access and core networks) in the most dynamic way without needing to know the actual infrastructure topology. In so doing, the operator can build the most appropriate virtual network offering multiple services. For our part, NEC has opted to pursue an integrated business solution, combining the physical infrastructure and network controller functions of SDN with a telecoms operating management system (TOMS) incorporating both operating support systems (OSS) and business support systems (BSS).

NEC believes that SDN offers multiple benefits for network operators including substantial increases in equipment efficiency and the carving of new profit-generating opportunities. Broadly speaking, we can summarize the additional value generated by SDN in three key areas.

The first is the achievement of appropriate network control. Using network controllers, you can build a virtual network that can optimize traffic and respond to multiple service needs by employing existing server and network resources more effectively. The control function also enables operators to visualize traffic and provide a smoother, more stable service by controlling congestion and connectivity, as well as to visualize users' quality of experience.

The second additional value generated by SDN is cost reduction. By building a virtual network that employs server and network resources more dynamically and flexibly, you can reduce idle equipment capacity substantially and consequently capital expenditure. You can also reduce operating costs by automating a network design to suit user utilization.

The third additional value that SDN offers is potential expansion of profits. By utilizing the information generated by traffic visualization, operators can make the network more convenient for service providers and end users and also satisfy their various demands more readily. In particular, this feature could help boost profits by carving new services for network carriers.

Given its potential advantages in terms of efficiency gains, SDN business can be developed aggressively on a global scale. NTT Communications offers global cloud services and NEC’s SDN solution is already being used commercially as a platform for NTT Communications’ Biz Hosting Enterprise Cloud. This system can help customers reduce their capital and operating expenditures and also carve new profit-generating avenues. Many carriers from around the world have shown interest in this form of network virtualization technology and have approached NEC as an aggressive promoter of OpenFlow. As data traffic continues to rise at a rapid pace, operators will have to navigate an increasingly complex yet more integrated network and determine the best technology to ensure the optimum promotion and usage of their particular services. SDN network virtualization can help smooth the rocky passage that is network evolution.

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