In search for “the meaning of SDN”

UNINETTs 2015 innovation project on SDN technology has continued the search for a “the meaning of SDN” for an IP backbone network operator. A growing number of vendors and  communities (both commercially driven and more idealistic)  keep on announcing enthusiastically SDN as the way to go while also posting warnings about believing SDN is the panacea for network management challenges.

What is clear so far is that the big players providing could services, e.g. Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft Azure and Google, have made great advancements within the data center management domain by introducing SDN controlled switching hardware and centralized control and orchestration software. Several papers reporting such success where presented at e.g. Sigcomm 2015 . Strict top-down control enables (not surprisingly) configurations which push utilization of resources close to 100%. Near optimal reconfiguration due to dynamic demands is also achievable.

When it comes to SDN applied in an average backbone network (e.g. like UNINETT), a growing number of option seem to emerge, much due to advances made in data center networking.

  • Capacities of open networking SDN hardware has increased to 10/40Gbps
  • SDN controllers have matured. Several open source license free alternatives are now relevant.

But when it comes to orchestration of a overall SDN based infrastructure, the options available are less. Most open frameworks, e.g. like Open Stack, are tuned towards data center resource management. It is not obvious how such frameworks can be reapplied in a backbone context.  The big cloud service players do to a large extent have their inter-data center backbone networks operated by SDN infrastructures. However their orchestration systems are “home grown”, potentially not general enough, and not (yet) publicly available.

UNINETTs SDN2015 innovation project has resulted in gained knowledge in the domain of SDN through a collection of activities.

  • Aryan TaheriMonfared, partly funded by UNINETT,  completed his PhD October 26th 2015. His thesis is titled “Software-Defined Networking Architecture Framework for Multi-Tenant Enterprise Cloud Environments”
  • A half day workshop on SDN was successfully held in August 2015.
  • A re-initiation of UNINETTs SDN-lab has been started. Due to cost and timeing factors, a locally located variant of the lab is now in progress (instead of the first inter-city variant). The mail aim now is to better enable experimentation with inter-datacenter traffic management.
  • Participation in the InaaS task of Geant4 1 year JRA2 has been done. Due to limited overlap with activities directly relevant for UNINETT, an observatory role was taken.
  • UNINETT has contributed in applications for research project funding within the SDN-domain.
  • Analysis of controller organization and placement in a futuristic SDN-based UNINETT backbone has been initiated, but not yet concluded.
  • A presentation on datacentre backbone networks was held at the EU FP7 Clean Sky Summer School in Göttingen in September 2015.


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