Transform to a Network of the Future at Your Pace

Bosco Eduardo Fernandes, Independent consultant and Senior Strategic Advisor


What started in the ‘90s as the first multimode, multiband architectural Standard emerges for Radio access systems has since become an inevitable evolutionary base for today’s rigid Network infrastructure as traffic growth increases the costs and complexity of network operations. The underlying technologies can be leveraged to create a programmable, highly automated infrastructure. Virtual and physical assets are holistically managed and orchestrated as a single entity, creating simplicity out of potential chaos, with all resources available for maximum utilization and serving customer needs on demand. One of these next generation technologies is Software-Defined Network (SDN), which has complementary Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and cloud technologies that will increasingly be adopted by operators to help make networks more flexible and responsive to changes as required. They will be an integral part of the development of the IoT and in managing network resources to cope with the Big Data traffic generated.

In principle, the motivation for agile service creation, open networks and lowered cost of ownership, have resulted in innovations using SDN that integrates network resources to create a unified network operating system, making it possible for service providers to tailor connectivity according to a given application’s specific requirements – across multiple layers, domains, vendors, and technologies. By deploying an SDN solution that combines dynamic multi-layer (L0-L3) transport with dynamic control, service providers can transform their network and service-delivery model while also maximizing return on their embedded investments. In other words decouple topology, traffic and inter-layer dependencies enables dynamic multi-layer networking. Such a solution enables the now-programmable network to respond to applications. Using the network intelligence the network can update dynamically, in real time, to accommodate the needs of a given application. In this way one could say SDN is an architectural concept that encompasses the programmability of multiple network layers -- including management, network services, control, forwarding and transport planes -- to optimize the use of network resources, promote interoperability across suppliers and network layers, increase network agility, unleash service innovation, accelerate service time-to-market, extract business intelligence and ultimately enable dynamic, service-driven virtual networks.

SDN promises to deliver significant cost reductions and substantial competitive benefits, notably by enabling service providers to:

  • respond to changing market environments by creating new applications and launching new services faster than today
  • Use a Standardized reference functional model/architecture (levels, abstractions, interfaces) which is open and vendor-neutral to software.
  • Satisfy end-user requirements for on-demand bandwidth in a significant and efficient manner
  • Reduce operational complexity through network simplification and automation
  • Reduce CAPEX and OPEX by:
    a) cutting provisioning times and
    b) enabling service providers to distribute loads, with maximum speed and efficiency, among the most appropriate network resources
  • Extremely faster platform upgrade cycles at lower hardware cost
  • Higher reliability and scalable performance by way of automation of Operations processes
  • Extensively Secure “by design”
  • Generate additional revenues

All the major carriers are still involved in evaluating and trialing SDN (software-defined networking) and NFV (network functions virtualization) however, they are rapidly moving towards becoming mainstream network. The momentum is strong, nevertheless, widespread commercial deployments where bigger parts of — let alone whole — networks are controlled by SDN will be deployed around 2016 through 2020.

Some of the hurdles:

There has been a tremendous amount of work across the industry in defining and developing use cases for both SDN and NFV, and it continues to be the number one topic of interest in our with service providers. Internal interest is high among providers, products abound, and well-defined use cases are proliferating, but in many cases the economics of commercialization are yet to be demonstrated. This is an area that will need much greater focus if SDN and NFV are to be successful.


  • Interoperability is not where it needs to be for ease of adoption and widespread SDN deployment. SDN controllers from different vendors are unlikely to work together. The focus today is on north-south managing of network gear rather than cooperation at the top.
  • Getting started is tricky. Companies have invested heavily in particular vendors and their devices. It is unlikely that SDN comes in as a replacement to what is there; rather, it will likely be additive, “layered” on top of what already exists.
  • What do you choose as the “right type” of SDN for your organization? There seems to be three flavors: overlay/additive; vendor-specific solutions using custom ASICs, with common APIs; and the “white-box” approach of relatively simple hardware acting as a commodity element designed to behave as switches, routers, etc., by their SDN controller. You need to know what kind of network flexibility makes the most sense for your environment, but there are still few guide posts for figuring this out.
  • SDN software, including network apps, such as traffic analytics, and orchestration and controller software — is the critical piece that will convert a network into a software-defined network.
  • Due to the newness of SDN technology and the fundamental changes it brings to networks, there is an incredible demand for expertise to design, deploy and operate SDN-based services, and carriers are looking to vendors for this expertise.
  • It lacks a common set of interoperability standards for all network products, despite SDN's open heritage. Until these standards disputes are resolved, only early adopters whose businesses can't afford to live without a technology like SDN (think Google) will move forward with broad implementation. This doesn't mean that SDN shouldn't be on your IT roadmap.

First Market predictions

  • In its recent report, IHS predicts service providers around the world will increase their spending on SDN software by 15 times from 2015 to 2019, as service providers worldwide seek service agility and operational efficiency in their networks to stay competitive.
  • The global market for carrier software-defined networking (SDN) software, hardware and services is expected to grow from $103 million in 2014 to $5.7 billion in 2019, according to IHS.
  • IHS expects outsourced services for SDN projects to grow at a 2014–2019 CAGR of 199 percent
  • The study is consistent with another report IHS released in July, which predicted that the global NFV market will grow fivefold to $11.6 billion through 2019.
  • Yet the market is still in the early stage “in the long-term, 10- to 15-year transformation of service provider networks to SDN,”
Three main areas of exploitation of SDN-NFV paradigms can be envisaged: Telecommunications Core Networks and the Edge Networks; Enterprise Networks- the more IT decision-makers and business leaders know about it, the better they'll be able to determine where and when to introduce it to their data centers; Clouds with this much investment going into product development, SDN will also assume an important role in IT infrastructure deployment.​​​



Bosco Eduardo FernandesBosco Eduardo Fernandes received a Master’s (Dipl.Ing) degree in Electrical Engineering from the Munich University in 1974 and Executive MBA respectively in 1981. He is a member of the Internet Society, Senior Member of IEEE and the International Telecommunications Academy of Russia (ITA). His contribution to Research, Standards bodies, many publications and Industry Fora work programs has been well received. He started his career at Siemens in R&D and held leadership roles in Telecom, including several Research Projects from 1974-2010. Beginning 2011 he joined Huawei Technologies GmbH, as Head of European Corporate Research, and subsequently Head of Solution in the Enterprise Division with responsibilities for Smart Utilities technologies. Currently he is an independent consultant and Senior Strategic Advisor, a position he has held since September 2013. His areas of expertise through working in international projects include 5G, M2M, Big Data, Mission critical Systems, Collaboration on Smart Cities, Multi-Utility Smart Grid Communications platforms and their respective Management platforms as well as Advanced (Smart) Metering Infrastructure and value chains. Furthermore, he works on Internet of Things (IoT) and Future Internet Platforms which include integration of, Software Defined Networks (SDN), Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), Cloud and Information Centric Networking.



Eileen HealyEileen Healy is a proven change agent who knows how to deliver solutions by crafting vision and executing strategy leading concrete results. She has been a member of the IEEE since 1982 and worked in the telecommunications industry for even longer. Eileen started as a network analyst helping an international financial brokerage minimize their costs for international telex[1] and voice calls. Driven by her love for this work, she went on to study electrical engineering at UC Berkeley where her passion for communications landed her an unprecedented role as the only undergraduate working as a teaching assistant in Dr. John Whinnery’s optics and microwave lab while earning her BSEE. She then worked for Pacific Bell where she was the liaison to Stanford University’s Telecommunications Institute providing industry perspective and guest lecturing on development in commercial optical networks. As Vice-Chairman of ANSI’s subcommittee on Digital Hierarchies, she helped shape the SONET and SDH optical standards. Later, she helped to launch Pacific Bell Mobile Services where she and her colleagues bucked the trend in the U.S. and supported the emerging GSM standards leading to the widespread deployment in the U.S. She founded two companies that successfully supported the growth of mobile networks and services. She is an accomplished senior executive who consistently delivers results by remaining on the cutting-edge of changing market place dynamics. She has worked in the Metro-Ethernet Forum, the Cloud Services Forum and participated in the NFV Forum before its integration into ETSI. She is currently actively involved in the IEEE SDN Initiative holding various roles including the Editor-in-Chief of the SDN Newsletter.


[1] The original texting service that was used heavily in international stock and commodities trading until the 1990s.



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IEEE Softwarization Editorial Board

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