data centerThere has been “an explosion of service-provider activity” in the telecommunications sector as companies move beyond the hype and begin “grappling with the hard questions that come with actual implementation of SDN (softwared-defined networking) applications in the wide-area network (WAN),” according to new market research from Heavy Reading.

“In just a few short years, SDN has risen from relative obscurity in academia to become the most transformative business and technology trend the telecom world has seen in decades,” Heavy Reading report author and senior analyst Sterling Perrin was quoted in a press release. “The potential scope of SDN is broad and reaches nearly every aspect of service provider organizations.”

Focusing on the application of SDN to Layers 0 and 1 in the service-provider WAN, Heavy Reading conducted two global operator surveys and conducted a series of in-depth, one-on-one interviews with “key service provider innovators.”

A significant amount of standardization and industry collaboration is required if SDN is to move beyond niche deployments to wide-scale implementation, according to Heavy Reading. “In the absence of clear direction from service providers, equipment suppliers throughout the supply chain are filling the void with their own technology and roadmap solutions for SDN. This vendor noise is contributing to further service provider confusion and delays,” Perrin commented.

Carrier SDN Plans
Other key takeaways in Heavy Reading’s “SDN in the WAN: Service Provider Opportunities & Challenges” report include:

  • Operator interest in SDN in the WAN can be traced back to requirements for cloud services delivery. The cloud model is based on sharing storage and computing resources across wide geographies. In order for these resources to be shared efficiently, however, the network has to be both dynamic and flexible – a dramatic change from the static-pipes model of the enterprise networking past;
  • SDN’s perceived benefits differ depending on what part of the service provider organization is talking. Network operators’ transport groups have a heavy focus on capex and opex savings, increasing efficiency and interoperability; their product groups are more focused on increasing revenue from existing services, creating new services and bringing both existing and new services to market more quickly;
  • Service providers view SDN primarily as a Layer 3 networking revolution – including the IP and MPLS layers. Few operators see the optical layers – including WDM and OTN layers – as benefiting the most from SDN. However, there is significant interest in IP+optical integration, which is increasingly being viewed as a means to reduce both capex and opex;
  • Transport SDN (T-SDN) is defined as SDN applied to Layers 1 and 0 and must be addressed differently than higher layers of the OSI stack. The analog nature of optics – including a host of optical attributes and features, such as chromatic dispersion/polarization mode dispersion, forward error correction, optical filtering, amplifier settings and more – makes SDN a special case in this part of the network.

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