Towards the World Brain with SDN & NFV

Chris Hrivnak, The Nemacolin Group

IEEE Softwarization, July 2017


In early January 2017, in Las Vegas at their World Developer Summit, AT&T executive John Stankey announced AT&T is no longer "the phone company," but rather "the open-source software-defined networks company." What a change!  

Stankey went on to say the company has enabled 34% of its networks with software capabilities and will continue the trend. In order to more fully transition its legacy networks, AT&T is acquiring Vyatta (network operating systems with VNFs such as vRouter, distributed services platform and new unreleased software) from Brocade this year. Last year, AT&T introduced ECOMP -- for Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management & Policy.

In collaboration with Intel Labs, Sprint too is shifting from proprietary equipment and software control to open-source software and off-the-shelf data center hardware with C3PO (Clean Control & User Plane Separation (CUPS) Core Packet Optimization (acronym within an acronym).

Just a few years ago, in October 2012, ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) had spun out an introductory white paper from operators on Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), which is complementary to SDN. ETSI also has the Open Source NFV MANO (Management and Network Orchestration) software framework.

This year on the Gartner Hype Cycle, SDN and NFV can be found on the slope of enlightenment and the plateau of productivity.

Grand forecasts of world market growth and size have been released, for instance:

"Between 2015 and 2020, the service provider NFV market will grow at a robust compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 42 percent --- from $2.7 billion in 2015 to $15.5 billion in 2020," said Michael Howard, Senior Research Director, Carrier Networks, at IHS Markit.

That market would be for NFV hardware, software and services.

There are many SDN/NFV tech conferences going on with increasing concerns about fitting the softwares to business models, total cost of ownership (TCO) analyses and ramping up for the IoT, LTE-M and eventually 5G networks that are likely to be user-centric with on-demand dynamic delivery for service oriented architectures. 

Google will continue to rely upon SDN and NFV in building its networking infrastructure to "NexGen" level to accommodate mobile devices in 5G. Their platform is described, in part, as being based on an SDN framework enabling networks to adapt to new services and traffic patterns. Characteristics include fast user space packet processing on commodity hardware, simplified workflow management and automated testing. Click here for more information.

Network maturity models or maps are being promulgated by Gartner, TMForum and others. For detail on the Intel model, click here. Intel envisages six phases of maturity with the present being focused on standalone functions and common information models and driving into the future with network slicing, federation and full service automation. 

The rise of analytics and machine learning over cloud from Azure, Google, IBM, et al, via CPUs, Nvidia GPUs and TensorFlow processing units (TPUs) can be expected to lead to implementation of intelligent orchestration of network functions.  

There will be driving benefits in terms of network security, telemetric processing, server infrastructures and other areas in the near- to mid-term.  Productivity improvements such as double digit cost reductions in customer premise equipment (CPE) and service commissioning as well as new profitable revenue streams are expected as the market size and growth forecasts manifest. 

Data moving through the cloud, fog and mobile edge between devices at increasing throughputs and decreasing latencies require network architectures structured with SDN and NFV, such as has already been established with Open Platform NFV (OPNFV) since 2014, so that agility, flexibility, interoperability and scalability are robust. In terms of interoperability, ETSI has come up with the Family of Common NFV APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to enable a "modular and extensible framework for automated management and orchestration of VNFs and network service (NS) within an Interoperable Ecosystem (Source: Layer123)."

There remain intransigent security concerns with NFV. ETSI has organized a NFV Security Working Group, which has published releases from time to time. The conundrum is in providing robust security simultaneously with lawful interception. Click here for a summary of their tutorial that was held last month in the southern part of France.

These times are game changing for network operators and providers, whether they may be innovators, early adopters or laggards. Adding in future concerns of augmented, virtual and augmented realities, enterprise data visualization and supercomputing -- or even quantum computing -- over cloud, fog and edge leads further into the "world brain" concepts of Wells, Clark, Gaines, Goertzel, de Rosnay, Heylighen. For instance, the aggregation of image data from labs and other sources around the world will probably revolutionize scientific and engineering research and development.

Let's hope that geomagnetically induced currents (GICs) from solar flares (AKA coronal mass ejections) are limited in their effects on electrical grids!



Chris HrivnakChris Hrivnak is a Sr. Member of the IEEE and The Photonics Society.  He is also a member of the IEEE Life Sciences Community, the IEEE Software Defined Networks (SDN) Community and the IEEE Internet Technology Policy Community and has participated in the IEEE Experts in Technology and Policy (ETAP) Forum..  He graduated from Baldwin Wallace University and completed varied coursework at Cleveland State, Case Western Reserve, Gould Management Education Center, McKinsey, Hughes R&D Productivity, UT-Dallas, Tulane Law and Pepperdine Graziadio.  Broad range of interests including but not limited to augmented intelligence, autonomous systems, additive manufacturing, information & communications technologies (ICT), life sciences, dark physics, etc.



Korhan CengizAssistant Prof. Dr. Korhan Cengiz is a senior lecturer in the department of electrical-electronics engineering in Trakya University, Turkey. His research interests include wireless sensor networks, SDN, 5G and spatial modulation.



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IEEE Softwarization Editorial Board

Laurent Ciavaglia, Editor-in-Chief
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Syed Hassan Ahmed
Dr. J. Amudhavel
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