SDN still an unknown quantity, despite industry momentum

LONDON--The mobile industry remains some way off from understanding how best to apply Software Defined Networking (SDN), representatives from Telecom Italia Lab and Huawei told the Transport Networks for Mobile Operators trade conference here on Tuesday.

Speakers on the opening day of the event agreed that SDN is a necessary development for mobile networks. However, Roberto Micali, senior mobile network engineer at Telecom Italia Lab, said where operators apply SDN in the network is still being worked out.

"SDN can give you more 'brain'," Micali said, referring to the choices available to operators to optimise their networks. He noted that SDN puts the focus on network intelligence rather than outright speed, and can work across the different elements of a mobile network, such as the control plane or application layer.

Leonida Macciotta, senior marketing manager at Huawei, said the industry is still trying to fully understand SDN "especially what it means in different parts of the network."

Macciotta said Huawei is working closely with operators to define and understand what SDN is, and added that such collaboration is, on a more general level, essential for the industry's future.

The shift to software is not restricted solely to mobile networks, however. Christian Illmer, business development director at test equipment company JDSU, said the company is fast approaching the point when it won't sell hardware, as many of the key network functions that are currently handled in hardware are moved to software.

"We foresee that everything will move to virtualisation," Illmer said, adding: "You won't buy test equipment from us, you'll buy software." That software will be run through the cloud or existing servers, he noted.

Despite the shift towards virtual testing, Illmer pointed out that the need for testing remains very real. "Consumers don't care what technology they're on. They expect performance through the whole technology cycle."

Illmer's point is that early adopters of a technology must not experience a drop in performance as that technology becomes a mass market proposition.

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