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OpenDaylight Aims for Carrier-Grade SDN

By Tara Seals June 11, 2015

Software-defined networking (SDN) (and its cousin, network function virtualization (NFV)) is becoming a de facto heir to the networking future, although deployments are just now starting to appear in the commercial market. With the promise of elastic access to on-demand resources in the cloud, the technology promises service agility and operational cost-savings when implemented the right way. For telecom operators however, making SDN “carrier-grade”—that is, scalable to millions of users, addressable across networks and with the ability to support stringent SLAs—has been a challenge. The Open Daylight initiative wants to change that.

With SDN, switches and routers are made programmable—that is, their core functions are carried out in software on top of standard hardware servers. As such, the switching fabric becomes controllable remotely via management overlays, which can give operators dynamic, on-the-fly control over network resources. Gone are the days of proprietary hardware that must be configured individually and manually. SDN is thus an important part of NFV, because it offers the ability to control the abstracted functionality from a central location.

This can offer a host of benefits, not least of which is the ability to empower new consumer purchasing models for self-service and on-demand provisioning. SDN can also be used to streamline resource abstractions to hide complexity and simplify the overall virtualized network solution.

With SDN at Orange we anticipate benefits across the entire scope of our business including order fulfillment, assurance/analytics, cloud DC interconnects, Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) connectivity and more,” said Jamil Chawki, core network strategy and standards manager at Orange and an OpenDaylight Advisory Group member, in a blog. “There are several key opportunities that SDN could bring to network operators, first being the dynamic nature of the technology.”

For telecom operators, the use cases are many, and include the ability to offer dynamic VPN services, offer QoS tiers, and perform on-the-fly traffic engineering.

That said, today, SDN and NFV are a hotbed of innovation with a broad spectrum of vendors bringing products and technologies to market. Ironically, the myriad options may prove counterproductive to SDN and NFV adoption. Many organizations, overwhelmed by choice, also have to avoid the pitfalls of nascent technologies such as inconsistent interoperability, limited management tools or fragmentation—issues that the telecom vertical in particular are very sensitive to.

OpenDaylight means to provide an open reference framework for programmability and control through an open-source SDN and NFV solution. Such a framework maintains the flexibility and choice to allow organizations to deploy SDN and NFV as they please, yet still mitigates many of the risks of adopting early stage technologies and integrating with existing infrastructure investments.

Orange, which has a range of fixed and mobile services with 247 million customers in 29 countries, has been an active participant in OpenDaylight since its launch in 2013. Orange is also actively participating in OpenStack and is a founding member of OPNFV. The carrier believes that by 2016, OpenDaylight will grow to become a carrier-grade SDN Open Source Reference Platform acknowledged by major standards organizations, including the IETF, ITU-T, ETSI and others.

Orange is participating in four key OpenDaylight proof of concept (PoC) use cases, including one around offering virtual CPE. The PoC is focused on extending the L2 network overlay used in datacenters to the operator's access network, specifically the border network gateways, among other things. But the idea is to prove out the viability of offering customers thin client CPE, which can be provisioned, troubleshot, updated and tested remotely from the cloud. The service offers big savings in terms of minimizing truck rolls and addressing end user trouble tickets more quickly, but also offers operators the ability to provide self-provisioning and monitoring options to customers.

Chawki said that the project is so far promising, and shows that operator SDN can work.

?“Our experience testing these use cases both from a technical perspective and also from our extensive operational and business model analysis has made us more excited than ever about the impact SDN and NFV will have,” Chawki said.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Contributing Writer

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