SDN London Insights: What is SDN? – What is NFV? – What is OpenFlow?

Last month, I attended the Whitehall Media SDN conference in London. Not surprisingly SDN, NFV and OpenFlow were the center of discussion. But, there was an apparent disconnect between these new ideas and how they connect with real network operations.

What I gathered from questions in the sessions and chatter in the corridor is that network engineers have two primary questions:

  1. What are SDN, NFV and OpenFlow all about?
  2. How can they help me run my network more efficiently?

Many people do not realize that the OpenFlow SDN definition really assumes people to build OpenFlow applications in order to perform network functions. This purist definition is perhaps relevant only in labs, research and the giants like Google. In my opinion, this definition is too limiting. Rather than debating the definition, however, we should direct our attention to solving problems.

SDN and NFV are buzzwords, but it needs to be understood that these concepts can be used to reach goals. I made a presentation at the SDN Conference focused on the lack of automation and complexity in current network management environments. This makes it hard to introduce new services and have them fully automated.

Take VPNs, for example, do we really think VPN provisioning is solved? It’s an old boring problem, but it’s still not solved. As a service provider you may not be that interested in writing OpenFlow, but you’re definitely interested in bringing VPNs to your customers. And you need automatic service provisioning for that.

Perhaps these buzzwords really boil down to an unsexy, down-to-earth vision of network automation?

You can catch more of this discussion and my take in the presentation from SDN Conference here.

As always, I’m interested to hear your perspective on SDN and NFV as well. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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