SDN and NFV: What's next?

Software Defined Networking and Network Function Virtualisation are two new technologies which have the potential to change our business profoundly.
SDN and NFV Software Defined Networking and Network Function Virtualisation are two new technologies which have the potential to change our business profoundly.

Our current hardwired approach to networks will be replaced by a flexible, adaptive, and smarter architecture - this is the essence of SDN.
 
 

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An SDN will be capable of reconfiguring itself dynamically to best handle changes in demand and traffic mix. By separating the control plane of the SDN from the data plane, and centralising the control function, routing decisions can be made in the context of the entire network rather than according to the rules built in to each switch.

Let’s assume that User A wants to talk to User C on a current network. User A’s traffic gets sent to Switch A. Switch A knows that traffic destined for User C gets sent via Switch B. Switch B knows that traffic for User C gets sent to Switch C. Very simple…
 
But let’s say that Switch B is congested. Switch A will keep sending data to Switch B regardless, because that’s what it’s instructed to do. An SDN, however, will see the congestion, and reprogram the network to use a less congested route. This allows the SDN to cope with different traffic types and changing demand while improving overall utilisation of the network. Mobile users, for example, should experience enhanced service quality.

NFV has its roots in the data centre.
 
 

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It uses Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) hardware to perform the tasks that today are performed by proprietary communications hardware. The COTS hardware allows all of the network tasks to run in software and to be hosted in a virtual environment. This decouples the physical hardware from the task being performed, which allows much greater flexibility. Besides saving on the cost of acquiring and operating proprietary hardware, NFV allows new services to be provisioned and configured quickly, and to be scaled rapidly when required.
 


So, what might the future hold?

 
SDN and NFV are going to affect a significant number of product lines across the communications sector. Migration to Virtual Machines hosted on COTS hardware and increased use of APIs will feature.

Significant investment will be needed to prepare for this new world. We have already started engaging with the various standards bodies and industry forums to understand these new technologies and scope out future paths, coordinating with the major industry players who are likely to be early adopters of SDN/NFV.
 
By participating in the greater telecommunications network ecosystem, we take integration risk away from our customers. We intend to invest ahead of the market, and be fully prepared for deployment on Day One, so that we can continue to offer our customers the solutions and services they will need in the future.
 
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BAE Systems, Communications Intelligence Team 28 October 2014