The Future of Telco Data Center Networking in the SDN Era
Vol. 12, No. 5, May 2014
米国調査会社ヘビーリーディング社の調査レポート「ソフトウェア制御のネットワーク（SDN）時代の通信会社のデータセンタネットワークの将来性 - The Future of Telco Data Center Networking in the SDN Era」は、通信会社のデータセンタのネットワーク分野に、ソフトウェア制御のネットワーク（SDN）が与える影響を分析し、様々な採用シナリオや新規参入者や既存ベンダのアプローチなどについて記載している。新たな要求要件やネットワークインフラに対する期待などの、通信会社のデータセンタ事業者の最新の考え方にも注目している。通信会社が、ソフトウェア制御のネットワーク（SDN）やネットワーク機能仮想化（NFV、Network Functions Virtualization）をサポートするためにデータセンタを変化させることによるデータセンタネットワークの革新についても論議している。
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (サンプルページ/エグゼクティブサマリー)
Data centers are becoming a more strategic asset for telecom operators, with many currently in the midst of, or planning, major transformations. Whereas they were once used primarily to support internal functions, today data centers are used to deliver end-user applications, including content and video. More importantly, cloud-based services such as infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and software as a service (SaaS) are facing an increasingly competitive market. Network functions virtualization (NFV) is another major driver of change in the telco data center.
To support these new services more efficiently and cost-effectively, telcos are looking to software-defined networking (SDN) architectures. SDN represents a new paradigm in networking – one that is creating an opportunity for new suppliers. Open, standards-based platforms threaten to disrupt the business of established suppliers, which have historically offered proprietary solutions. These suppliers are looking to defend their turf while also demonstrating a commitment to "openness."
Opex savings is the main driver behind the move toward SDN, as opposed to the capex savings that generic x86 platforms will provide. SDN architectures offer the promise of more automation, simplifying service creation and delivery. The ability to use Linux-based tools would enable telcos to use a single management system across the compute, network and storage domains. This is how the hyper-scale cloud providers such as Google and Amazon operate today, and telcos need to be able to match them from a cost perspective to remain competitive. Virtualization – which is not a requirement of SDN, but is often planned in conjunction with SDN transformation – will give telcos the ability to use resources more efficiently.
SDN is but one of the use cases that is supported by existing and emerging data center networking solutions. Leaf/spine architectures are being deployed to account for the shifting of traffic from north-south to east-west. Fabric architectures provide a more efficient way to configure and manage disparate network elements and transport data. Overlay networks provide the ability to support thousands of virtual networks – a necessity for cloud services – while also making it easier to move workloads between and across data centers.
SDN itself has many possible implementation scenarios, and different vendors and products support different models. Heavy Reading expects that telcos will adopt multiple approaches. Which one they choose will depend on the nature of the services they wish to offer and how aggressively they wish to transform their data centers. There is certainly room and opportunity for new entrants, but we expect the incumbents to retain a good share of the business, as they have shown a willingness to adapt to meet the emerging telco requirements for next-generation data centers.
The Future of Telco Data Center Networking in the SDN Era highlights and analyzes the impact SDN will have on the telco data center networking domain, including the various implementation scenarios and approaches of new-entrant challengers and established vendors. It also provides insight into the current thinking of telco data center operators as regards their emerging requirements and expectations for networking infrastructure. It discusses the likely evolution of data center networking as telcos transform their data centers to support SDN and NFV.
The changing requirements for telco data centers have created an opening for new solutions – and new suppliers. This report analyzes the strategies of 12 leading data center networking vendors, including both incumbents and challengers. The challengers are taking varied approaches to data center networking, with some having a targeted focus on networking, while others are concentrating more on applications. The excerpt below offers a brief overview, illustrating each vendor's technology focus and core competencies.
When comparing challenger and incumbent switch vendors, much of the difference has to do with where the value lies – in hardware or software – and where the intelligence for SDN will reside – in the controller or the switch. As the excerpt below shows, challengers are more likely to embrace open-source principles, using Linux for the OS and OpenFlow to communicate with SDN controllers; and are more likely to leverage merchant silicon, rather than develop custom ASICs. In their view, hardware is a commodity, and the value of the solution is in software.
Report Scope & Structure
Telco Data Centers: Reinvention Starts Here
The reinvention of telco data centers is still in the early stages, but the opportunities and challenges facing network operators and their technology partners are quickly becoming clear. Software-defined networking (SDN) lies at the heart of the long-term potential of next-generation telco data centers. It also presents some of the biggest issues in telco data center transformation.
Heavy Reading has traced the rapid evolution of SDN in the telecom environment from the start, and my new report, The Future of Telco Data Centers in the SDN Era, expands our research view into what may become network operators' key strategic asset in the next-gen telecom ecosystem: virtualized data centers.
The report highlights and analyzes the impact SDN will have on the telco data center networking domain, including the various implementation scenarios and approaches of new-entrant challengers and established vendors. It offers insight into the current thinking of telco data center operators regarding their emerging requirements and expectations for networking infrastructure. It also identifies the likely evolution of the networking as telcos transform their data centers to support SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV), including an in-depth review of the strategies of 12 key networking technology suppliers.
With increasing competition from hyper-scale web players and OTT providers, telcos have recognized the need to move quicker and lower their costs -- both opex and capex. They are virtualizing their data center resources to increase utilization rates and automate service creation and delivery. They are also planning to virtualize network functions themselves. Doing so will allow them not only to move away from higher-cost network elements based on proprietary hardware, but also to become more agile and flexible. Virtualized functions will make it easier to deploy functionality in distributed data centers that reside closer to an end user's location.
New entrants are taking multiple approaches to data center networking. Though they are often linked together, the new crop of networking suppliers is hardly monolithic. It is true that most use platforms that are based on merchant silicon (as opposed to custom ASICs), but they vary in the nature of the functionality their solutions support. Networking-focused companies such as Pica8 offer Linux-based OSs that are loaded on to bare-metal switches in support of the "white box" approach to data center switching. Companies such as BigSwitch, Vello Systems, and Plexxi offer some switching support, but they are more focused on applications.
BigSwitch has recently pivoted toward its unified physical and virtual network fabric and network monitoring application. Vello, too, switched gears midstream and now provides software to manage data center infrastructure, as well as applications running on this infrastructure. Plexxi is focused on the concept of "affinity," mapping the relationship between various network elements needed by a given workload, and programming the fabric with the necessary topologies.
Pluribus Networks stands somewhat separate from the rest, because it offers a converged infrastructure solution. Its Freedom Server-Switch product line, combined with the Netvisor OS, provides a "fusion" of compute, storage, switching, and hypervisor functionality in a single device.
Telco data centers are in the midst of a substantial transformation. Telcos aiming to lower costs and improve efficiencies are open to new solutions, including those from new suppliers. Each of these new companies is addressing a subset of the myriad requirements emerging from this transition. They are pushing commoditization of the networking function, meaning all vendors -- new and incumbent -- will need to find a differentiator that will add value.
— Roz Roseboro, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading