A Deep Dive into Network Functions Virtualization and Software-Defined Networking
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
We recently visited with Tim Diep, CA Technologies Director of SDN/NFV Product Management, to discuss how networks in the application economy need to transform through software defined networking and network functions virtualization.
ADM: What is Software-Defined Networking/Network Functions Virtualization?
Diep: Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is a technology focused on automating network provisioning and self-service. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is an extension of Software-Defined Networking, focusing on automating network functions provisioning of such things as load balancer, firewall, and WAN optimization.
Think of SDN as the father and NFV as the child. Both are part of the same family of automation. Why is SDN/NFV important to IT? Because of something I call the Three-S’ of networking in the Application Economy: Speed, Scale, and Self-Service.
ADM: How do these two services relate to the increase of global IP traffic and the IoT?
Diep: The tsunami of traffic is directly related to the Internet of Things (IOT) and the continual proliferation of apps. To contain the cost of supporting this growth, networks have to be optimized and shared across applications. This is done through SDN/NFV automation.
Moreover, besides the volume of traffic the unpredictable or transient nature of the apps and end-users themselves helps contribute to this added strain. SDN and NFV handles this by automating the network to be self-forming, provisioning the most granular service for each individual app/user on the fly.
This is the promise of SDN/NFV, but these advancements are creating complicated networks. And complicated networks are difficult to trouble-shoot and monitor.
ADM: What are some of the ways these services can help organizations with issues like security across an organization?
Diep: The beauty of SDN & NFV is that allows you to deploy security services on the go, based on the security risk at that time for a particular location or workload. The security services can be automatically deployed, targeting the most granular application. This is one of the ways enterprises are using automated security services to react to the constantly evolving security risks in today’s networks and data centers.
ADM: Has SDN/NFV adoption been on pace with need, or has it been slower/faster than anticipated?
Diep: I think this depends on who you ask and which part of the network. A few years back, folks thought that SDN was going to change networking overnight and every network will be automated using SDN. Now we know that hasn’t happen, not because the technology is flawed but mostly because of a lack of operational assurance and ROI.
From the beginning, there was just not enough attention on how to make SDN/NFV work outside of the engineering lab. So when it came time to get the operational team involved, reality set in that none of the enterprise assurance tools can monitor the complicated network.
ROI is the other issue. Enterprise IT only wants to deploy technologies to the most problematic areas in order to reap the quickest ROI. The use cases that are attractive so far are virtual CPE for remote sites, network virtualization in the data centers, and soon it will be hybrid WAN at the enterprise and Cloud edges.
ADM: What are some of the other complementary technologies that go hand-in-hand with SDN/NFV?
Diep: SDN/NFV is strategically tied to Cloud computing, because if you are to advance your Cloud data center, you will need to automate the network holding up the data center. In Cloud computing, OpenStack is changing the landscape with its economical open source approach, and most SDN/NFV architectures are integrating OpenStack. Cloud and SDN/NFV are like twin brothers - They share a lot of similar characteristics and building blocks.
ADM: What are the top product solutions for CIOs that are looking to adopt these solutions?
Diep: I highly recommend CIO’s to start looking at Open Source first. Solutions from OpenDaylight and OpenStack are equipped with large development communities and distribution from renowned vendors. At the same time, it is important to research the solutions to help operationalize the technologies. Learn from the mistakes of early SDN/NFV adopters.
Operationalization is one thing that is often over-looked in new enterprise technologies. The architecture eventually has to move out of the advanced engineering lab and into the hands of everyday operational and helpdesk personnel. The early companies who included operational monitoring and assurance are the ones with successful production SDN/NFV today.
ADM: By this point next year, how different/similar do you think the landscape will be with regards to these technologies?
Diep: I think next year we will see Software Defined WAN being the “Killer App” for the enterprise. Most large enterprise companies will either be deploying or trialing this use case. The reason has to do with the popularity of hybrid cloud and the sometimes overlooked issue of hybrid cloud connection reliability. Hybrid Cloud and SD-WAN will converge, and every reasonable solution architecture will include both technologies.
I also think you will see more open source activities and vendor solutions in the SDN/NFV assurance space, and everyone will be talking about “Operationalizing SDN/NFV”.
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