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Five SDN use cases: From video to service orchestration

After much conversation around SDN theory, a number of SDN use cases are finally starting to emerge. We rounded up five examples of SDN in action.

Software-defined networking theory has dominated conversation in the networking industry, but finally SDN uses cases are beginning to emerge that show how the technology can result in cost efficiency and network flexibility in both enterprise and service provider environments. Here are five SDN use cases that range from video and collaboration tools to mobile network service orchestration.

  1. Video and collaboration applications: Session border controller and unified communications vendor Sonus Networks announced a new use case for SDN in its applications for video and collaboration. The company combined its session border controllers with Juniper's network virtualization platform, which, in turn, lets providers create capacity on demand for certain communication sessions. They can also set policies that adjust the Quality of Service level for each session. According to Aashu Virmani, senior director of corporate strategy and business development, this allows better control over the network and new services that require dynamic service-level agreements, he said. Providers can ensure better control over Quality of Service without having to expand capacity, since they'll be able to both provision and de-provision the network space based solely on need. Read more about using SDN for video and collaboration applications.
  2. Converged storage: Edgenet, a data services provider, is using SDN to create a programmable fabric across data center and storage technologies. The company opted for SDN with the goal of virtualizing the network and making it agile enough to keep up server and storage virtualization. With the combined technology, Edgenet is offering Software as a Service and data services. The company implemented NEC Corporation of America's ProgrammableFlow SDN ecosystem, which includes an OpenFlow controller, as well as high-speed physical switching and virtual switching that supported a Hyper-V environment and enables network virtualization provisioning. An added perk of adopting the SDN architecture was the company's ability to build a multipath, east-west fabric that ultimately will allow it to implement a fully converged storage and data center network. Read more about using SDN to implement converged storage networking.
  3. A network exchange: An SDN-based networking exchange was created by a group of organizations in Atlanta and allows carriers, research institutes and enterprises to interconnect physical networks using SDN. Members can also stretch virtual network segments or tenants across multiple physical domains with policy intact, which essentially allows them to form a private Internet using Layer 2 interconnect. The goal of the project is to eventually afford large institutions and enterprises the opportunity to avoid using public Internet and instead create private networks that host sensitive data and multimedia applications. Exchange directors haven't disclosed the full range of hardware and software they're using, however, they have confirmed Brocade is providing a cross-connect fabric. The group is usingOpenFlow controllers and switches, but that isn't the only SDN route the group is exploring. The exchange plans to try out Cisco onePK and other approaches, as well. The exchange is also testing out "inter-controller protocols" that are still in development. Read more about this SDN network exchange.
  4. Mobile network service orchestration: Recently, both SDN and network functions virtualization (NVF) have come center stage in mobile operator and other service provider networks. The technologies can enable resource and service orchestration with dynamic provisioning that can take minutes as opposed to months. Specifically, looking at control plane functions like a user data repository (UDR), SDN and NVF can aid with provisioning lead times. In addition, other issues solved by SDN and NVF include the separation of application logic and enforcement from corresponding subscriber data. The technologies address issues in two ways -- through dynamic resource orchestration and intelligent service orchestration. Dynamic resource orchestration, which uses NVF, requires a uniform virtualization stack across applications, often in the context of private cloud for operators. Intelligent service orchestration typically involves the principles of SDN, which includes switches, routers and applications at Layer 7 that are programmed from a centralized controller. Working together, these two approaches are said to dramatically cut down the long lead times that are associated with dimensioning and provisioning additional resources for an existing application. Learn about using NFV and SDN for service orchestration.
  5. Scalable data center networks. SDN switches are being used to test a new data center network architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Ocean Cluster for Experimental Architectures in Networks. The new architecture allows engineers to incrementally scale bandwidth between servers and do so without spending significant money on hardware. The organization installed 13 Pica8 switches that have a total of 670 ports. Brighten Godfrey, assistant professor of computer science at the university, said the switches will be "sliced up" so they resemble a number of smaller switches; this will allow them to act as a large data center network to form a test bed for a range of SDN applications. Engineers will implement a new data center architecture in the test bed that strays from typical fat-tree topology and allows them to add switches with varying numbers of ports in order to incrementally scale bandwidth between servers. SDN controllers offer visibility and routing in this complex environment. Read about using SDN to scale data center networks.


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