Great Cloud Expectations?


O’Hare International Airport (ORD) services a staggering 70 million passengers and handles roughly 900 thousand flights each year. Although the statistics are impressive, traffic and service is expected to increase exponentially after their billion dollar expansion project is complete. Without a comprehensive strategy in place to manage the increased demand on their infrastructure, the expansion would undoubtedly wreak havoc in the skies above O’Hare. Luckily this “cloud provider” is well equipped to handle these challenges.

But what does this have to do with the IT industry and your cloud provider? In a word, everything.

SDN- A foundation growth

The fact is most businesses are either moving to the cloud or already operating in the cloud. As a result many cloud providers are currently undergoing their own expansion projects to accommodate the growing increase in traffic and cloud services. But while providers race to increase bandwidth, reduce latency and expand coverage, they are also looking to new and innovative ways to evolve the traditional Network to better manage the challenges that lie ahead. For some companies, the answer is Software Defined Networking, or SDN.

If today’s Cloud-Based Network Expectations are any indication of future growth and demand, the hailstorm of new and evolving cloud services will require a more holistic approach to managing the Network.  SDN lays the foundation for a new and exciting path towards Network innovation with three primary architectural goals:

  • The separation of the Network control plane from the data plane
  • Centralized view and control of the Network
  • Programmability of the Network using external applications

Based on the Open Networking Foundation’s (ONF) OpenFlow Protocol, these goals are fast becoming a reality. But how does the OpenFlow Protocol translate back to real world benefits for Network management and Innovation? Much like the benefits of hardware virtualization, Software Defined Networking enables virtualization of the Network by providing a layer of abstraction from hardware switches, routers, etc.; However, Network Virtualization is only the beginning.

Building a responsive network experience

A big advantage of separating the Network control plane from the data plane is the opportunity to implement dynamic, programmatic solutions which can facilitate a more agile and responsive Network experience.  Automated bandwidth management and load balancing solutions for example, can be invoked programmatically to orchestrate intelligent re-routing of Network data to the fastest, most efficient path.

With a centralized view and control of the Virtualized Network, Network Administrators are able to manage traffic holistically; modifying business rules and prioritizing traffic on-demand, without the need to access hardware directly or reconfigure Network Architecture.

Much like the cloud, SDN is an emerging and evolving concept that opens the door to many other benefits and an unprecedented opportunity for solutions that will revolutionize the Network. Many companies are well on their way to exploiting the benefits of SDN. Companies like Google are using SDN and OpenFlow for their internal WAN backbone. The internal “G-Scale” Network carries traffic between Google’s data centers world wide.

Custom SDN for maximum flexibility

AT&T is also leveraging the power and flexibility of SDN offering customers a customized SDN of their own.  With a custom SDN, customers have the ability to achieve a corporate Virtual Private Network (VPN) which leverages the facilities of the AT&T Switched Network.  The advantages to this approach include flexible routing, isolated multi-tenancy, and a host of software defined configurations for data access, access control and security, specific to that customers’ SDN.

As Cloud-Based Network Expectations continue to rise, the promise of SDN will undoubtedly help to optimize the cloud computing environment and provide a much more efficient means of managing such cloud-heavy services such as Video on-demand, Multi-Tenancy, Big Data and the ever growing payloads required from mobile apps and devices.

Are you preparing to leverage the benefits of SDN? How do you see SDN working to optimize your own cloud environment?


Brian Lee Principal Technical Architect AT&T About Brian