Software Defined Networking: The Future Is Here

By Jeff Doyle ·

SDN and NFV are not just slideware. Network leaders are deploying them - and profiting from them - right now.

SDN discussions often focus on expected benefits and what network executives need to do to prepare their network and their staff, leaving the impression that these technologies are “out there,” just over the horizon. But large data center operators like Google and Amazon are not just pioneering SDN, they’re using it right now to increase efficiency, reduce costs and give their customers greater control over the services they use.

If you think SDN is limited to the data center, you should talk to NTT Communications (NTT Com). “SDN offers the ability to centralize the management and topology of the network and use software tools to automate it,” says Doug Junkins, CTO of NTT Com’s wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, NTT America. “We’ve done that on our global IP backbone since even before NTT Com bought Verio in 2000. We’ve had a central configuration store where all our policy changes were made and then pushed out to the network elements.”

Automated Networks Are Agile Networks

SDN and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) streamline operational processes, removing organizational speed bumps that have traditionally slowed network changes. “We’re able to provision new customers and have customers self-provision services and changes to their topology,” Junkins says. “It’s all automated through the orchestration software.” These capabilities extend beyond the data center into the Wide Area Network.

“We’re starting to build a lot of gateways between our cloud platform in the data center and our Wide Area Network service, where customers will be able to manage not just their cloud services in the data center, but also the interfaces in their wide area and MPLS networks,” says Junkins. “They can move resources onto particular MPLS networks and connect cloud resources to those MPLS networks.”

Reaping the Benefits

SDN and NFV differ in their functions as well as their benefits. SDN is used to define and scope data flows in the network, and its chief benefit is the reduction of operational expense. NFV, on the other hand, virtualizes network functions and devices. According to Junkins, “That’s where you start seeing CAPEX savings because you’re moving what used to be proprietary or specialized network hardware, like firewalls and load balancers and gateways, onto commodity x86 machines.” Together, SDN and NFV enable dynamic networks that can adapt to changing customer needs in minutes instead of days or weeks.

Note: This article originally appeared on and was republished with author permission.