Some analysts have declared SDN as obsolete, kaput. The software-defined networking (SDN) movement, launched at the beginning of the decade, was all about moving network intelligence into software for increased agility; the reason we don’t hear much about that anymore is because the concept has become the norm. Rather than thinking of SDN as dead, I like to think of it as a caterpillar in one of its four stages of metamorphosis.
To its credit, SDN changed the way people think and talk about networking. SDN spawned an influx of software, network automation and programmability via APIs, thus altering the networking industry. SD-WAN wouldn’t exist without SDN, because the “software-defined” part is in both. SD-WAN is a subset of SDN, much like the second stage of metamorphosis. SDN and its counterpart NFV (network functions virtualization) are both core network technologies that have enabled SD-WAN’s success.
So, what does this future butterfly have in store?
- Programmable solutions – Leveraging SDN to build a proprietary program using the business rules behind what people are doing manually and creating policies around them — creating a layer of abstraction between order management, CRM platform and the network.
- Orchestration and automation – Moving away from siloed, domain-specific tools built for static environments and toward intent- and policy-based orchestration. Multidomain service orchestration (MDSO) sits atop each domain and orchestrates services from end to end, eliminating the need to log into separate network elements.
- Shift to predictive, prescriptive model – Along with big data, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), SDN will be able to better identify what will happen in the future rather than rely on historical data to create a closed-loop process. By leveraging these technologies, we can realize our goal of an adaptive network that is self-configuring, self-healing and self-optimizing powered by intent-based policies and analytics.
How does SDN and its transformation benefit you as a Channel Partner?
- With a closed-loop process and additional intelligence, your end users’ issues can be identified in near real time to resolve them before they even realize there’s a problem. For example, SD-WAN with 4G wireless backup will quickly reroute to 4G when primary access fails, then automatically switch back to the primary access when the outage is over.
- SDN orchestration, in conjunction with AI or ML, can help find the best path for QoS/QoE to meet your needs for services like wavelengths, eliminating manual work and possible human errors and improving service delivery installation time frames.
- Automatically scales services when capacity thresholds are exceeded or recommends more capacity when your customer is reaching their limit, such as with UCaaS.
- A partner portal that uses algorithms to present you with upsell and renewal offers for your end users, scrutinizing what deals were accepted in the past to ensure money isn’t left on the table and you maximize residuals.
More enterprises are adopting virtualization, orchestration, SDN and NFV to abstract network elements, automate network transactions and accelerate growth. I don’t know about you but I’m excited to follow the SDN and NFV life cycles to see what the future stages of evolution hold as they further enhance technologies with self-service, visibility and control capabilities and help deliver superior customer experiences and better bottom‑line results.
Russ Bartels is director of SDN orchestration and big data at Windstream, where he leads cross-functional teams responsible for designing, developing, implementing and supporting a carrier-grade multidomain service orchestration solution using best practices in software defined networking and network orchestration. He is a U.S. Air Force veteran. His expertise includes designing, implementing and supporting a variety of systems, including mediation, provisioning/activation and CRM. Follow him on LinkedIn or @Windstream on Twitter.