Verizon Debuts SDN Strategy With Partners Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, Others

Craig Galbraith

**Editor’s Note: Which is America’s top wireless network? Click here to see what we discovered.**

Verizon has taken the first major step toward implementing a software-defined network (SDN), unveiling its architectural plan – which the carrier says lays the groundwork for innovative new services and applications.

Verizon is working closely with several big-name technology partners – including Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Juniper Networks and Nokia Networks – in designing a network that it believes will be more efficient and help customers more quickly and flexibly deploy services.

“Verizon and our key technology partners have always focused on providing high-performance networks for our customers, and with this SDN architecture we will continue to ensure our network and services meet the needs of our customers, today and in the future,” said Roger Gurnani, Verizon chief information and technology architect.

“Verizon shares our vision of a future network that provides seemingly limitless capacity and is able to instantly adapt to the needs of businesses and consumers,” said Marcus Weldon, Alcatel-Lucent president of Bell Labs and chief technology officer. “We know this can be possible with virtualization, SDN technology and the ability to tap into the power of a strong, tightly paired IP and optical backbone network capable of handling people’s insatiable appetite to connect, share and consume content.”

SDN is the future; it features technology that will improve service delivery to near real-time. It makes operations more agile and automates them.

For enterprises, the move to SDN will be critical as mobility and cloud continue to make networking more complex.

“Put simply, SDN lets enterprises keep up with the changing nature of their businesses, enabling them to be more responsive to users, customers and market opportunities,” noted Shawn Hakl, head of network platforms and managed services for Verizon Enterprise Solutions, in this Q&A. “The demands on networking today are many and include the proliferation of mobile devices, application/data movement to the cloud; greater traffic variability; explosion of cyberthreats and changes in standards/chipsets. Enterprises must keep up with these demands in order to innovate and compete.”

Smaller organizations will reap the benefits as well.

“Solutions that were traditionally dependent on multiple large, expensive, physical-edge devices, can now be delivered in a more sophisticated, software-based approach, which allows us to expand the reach and depth of customers to which we can deliver those services, Hakl added. “It provides the complex security and performance management solutions, previously limited to very large enterprises, down to the midmarket and smaller business customers.”

Obviously, the shift to SDN is going to be a challenge for VARs who …

… have long been focused on hardware sales. They’ll need to bone up on software-defined networking soon.

“The box itself doesn’t become as mission-critical because you’re creating virtual machines,” Leslie Rosenberg, IDC research manager, recently told TechTarget. “So, the resell activity is going to diminish, [which will have] a lot of impact on the channel if you’re a product-led, or a technology-led, transaction-based reseller …”

For a partner with a services-oriented practice, there’s a real opportunity to become more important to a customer; customizing the network will be critical, and a partner will be extremely valuable as a consultant.

Verizon’s new plan is comprehensive; it includes all interface specifications and reference architectures, plus requirements for both the control layer and forwarding box functions. The carrier expects this road map will help its vendor partners develop solutions to achieve the business and technical benefits that an SDN-enabled network offers.

Verizon says the foundation for its software-defined network has been underway for several years, with labs on both coasts dedicated to this next generation of technology.

Rival AT&T has been vocal about its SDN plans in the last few months. The Dallas-based carrier has said it plans to virtualize and control more than 75 percent of its network using a software-defined architecture by 2020. Just last month, AT&T announced that businesses in more than 100 cities can now access its customizable switched Ethernet service via its Network on Demand.

Follow senior online managing editor Craig Galbraith on Twitter.

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