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Towards Cloud Ready Networks

Elena Neira
August22/ 2016

Everywhere you look in the 5G ecosystem – mobile networks, content delivery, smart home, 3D video, augmented reality, self-driving cars, IoT, BigData, radio and backbone connectivity – you see and hear about cloud, software and programability as the most important transformational forces in networking. In this introductory article – part of our cloud series – we introduce the rational behind these transformational forces and how they are taking shape in research and industry under the names of Software Defined Networks (SDN), and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), and to help with this introduction we are selecting three must-see reference tutorials that survey the field and include the latest developments.

Software, Cloud and Programmable Networks:  Realizing open, programmable network connectivity is most commonly refereed as SDN and NFV. Both are changing network computing platforms and network architectures including traditional data plane, control plane, and transport/routing functions. Traditionally, owners and operators of networks commission, write, buy or configure software to manage their networks largely via on-premissess software and hardware delivery; they also configure and program the network via the control plane and equipment management interfaces. SDN and NFV are changing this on-premisses delivery model; also changing is the assumption that programing is done via the control plane, and it is now including data plane programmability which until recently was left out due to performance considerations. Let’s look at three references that explain how all these developments are taking shape and its latest developments.

A Compass for SDN, an Introduction to Interfaces, Attributes & Use Cases [1]:   This first reference covers scope, high level architecture, APIs, and a list of critical features such as programmability and modularity of SDN and NFV. It also includes a list of use cases where this technology might be applied, among others, cloud orchestration, load balancing, routing & forwarding, network management, and application awareness.


The endless road


Hypervisors to Virtualize The Network[2]:   A critical component for virtualizing networks is a hypervisor that abstracts the underlying physical network into multiple logically isolated virtual SDNs, each with its own controller. This second reference explains SDN hypervisors and classifies them according to their architecture into centralized and distributed hypervisors. This reference also includes an alternative classification of the hypervisors according to their execution platforms into hypervisors running exclusively on general-purpose compute platforms, or on a combination of general-purpose compute platforms with general- or special-purpose network elements. Beyond the classification, there is also a definition and comparison of network attribute abstraction and isolation features in existing SDN hypervisors, and an outline to develop a performance evaluation framework.


Open Network Programability[3]:    Emerging recently are a multitude of “open” projects aimed at concrete proposals and projects that are practical implementations of of SDN, NFV  and network virtualization. Packet Pushers created a comprehensive reference list organizing and updating them regularly. The list includes, for each project a short description, resources, tools, and website references. Within this list, OpenFlow and P4 deserve special mention as two major efforts driving innovation towards the emerging 5G ecosystem.




[1] SDN Interfaces, Attributes and Use Cases Survey

[2] Network Virtualization Hypervisor Survey

[3] Open Networking Projects Survey

Elena Neira