Major vendors flocking to telco SDN

Major vendors flocking to telco SDN

Dimitris Mavrakis/Informa Telecoms and Media  |   March 08, 2013
Software Defined Networks (SDN) for telecom networks are the next big thing, and last week's MWC was not short of announcements and new marketing campaigns from big vendors.
 
It comes at the right time too, when LTE and data awareness now require greater network flexibility, scalability and cost performance. The difference with earlier technologies is that IT vendors are now entering the telecoms market since SDN (or virtualization) is a concept widely used in the IT market.
 
Vendor SDN activities at MWC
The big infrastructure vendors were announcing their telco SDN strategies at MWC and it seems that vendors are separating in two groups according to their SDN announcements:
  • End to end telco SDN vendors: Ericsson and Huawei aim to be one-stop-shops according to their announcements, providing operators with data centres, virtualized infrastructure, service exposure capabilities and control plane consolidation.
  • Vendors aiming to virtualize specific parts of the network, including Cisco, F5, Juniper, Tekelec and various other vendors.
The other big infrastructure vendors – namely Alcatel Lucent, NSN and ZTE – did not announce a thorough telco SDN strategy, but it is very likely that they will do so during the first half 2013 to take advantage of the current industry momentum.
 
Another important change is that IT vendors are entering the stronghold of infrastructure companies and can potentially cannibalize the established market of Ericsson and Huawei. Since the promise of SDN is specialized software running on commoditized hardware, infrastructure vendors have a lot to lose if IT vendors can implement network components in software.
 
However, mobile operators are still expected to partner with large vendors to some extent for their whole network, rather than contract a variety of smaller specialists. But the promise of SDN and the entry of IT principles in the telco domain may change this in the long term.
 
A selection of key vendor announcements is presented below:
 
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