SDN and NFV are driving service-driven network evolution

Staff writer
16 Mar 2016

You Yan, vice minister, technology department, ZTE, explains how SDN and NFV are changing the way operators think about network architectures - especially in relation to data centers - and why open-source is the way forward

SDN Insights: What impact are SDN and NFV having on the relationship between the telecoms network and the data center?

You Yan: Traditionally, the telecom network is totally different from data centers (DCs), which are usually constructed by the IT enterprise. But now SDN and NFV have changed the rules and connected these two together integrally. The DC will be the basic theme for telecom networks, as it will contain the basic data and service logic for telecom operators. All the services that telecom operators are running will migrate into the DC via NFV technology.

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As we know, NFV is based on DC technology, and NFV is involved in the progress of DC transformation. SDN will impact this progress mainly in two areas. One: it will fundamentally change the DC’s internal network, making the network more flexible for network virtualization. And two: it will change the network interconnections between DCs, improving the efficiency of those links.

With this in mind, how should operators be thinking about the evolution of their network architectures?

The evolution will be a long and complex progress. We suggest operators pay more attention on two particular aspects.

First, network evolution should be service-driven. Every adjustment in the network costs money and comes with potential instability. Fortunately, SDN/NFV is service-centric and aims for an open architecture. So we suggest that operators construct an open, flexible and elastic architecture. With this architecture, operators will be able to manage their network more freely and efficiently, and the users will get a customized network for themselves, which serves them much better.

Second, network evolution should coincide with organization evolution. These new technologies and new architectures are changing the way we run networks. As a result, the organization will also need to be transformed correspondingly. For example, new architecture enables a Dev-Ops mode which requires tighter collaboration between the operator’s development department and operating department, or even combining the two departments. And the new architecture is based on cloud, which requires the operating specialist to have the ability to operate both DC and traditional telecom services. This could be a challenge for the O&M team.

You unveiled ElasticNet as your SDN/NFV strategy in 2013 - what is the main concept behind it, and for what scenarios does it apply?

The core of the ElasticNet solution is an SDN/NFV dual engine, multi-DC and three-tier architecture, which has four main characteristics.

First is elasticity: unified control and deployment significantly improves network resource utilization. Second is openness: an open network design shortens time to market and promotes service innovation. Third is flexibility: “computer + storage + network” resource scheduling on demand. And fourth is simplification by decoupling software from hardware and controlling from forwarding, to create an “easy” network.

This meets the requirements of carrier networks, cloud DC and enterprise networks, and covers scenarios such as VDC+DCI, SDN-powered IPRAN, SDN-based WAN (IP and optical), vCN and so on.

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