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August 4, 2017 by Alan DiCicco

I’ll take my SDN in Size 11 Wide

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CORD is not SDN.

ONAP, OpenFlow, OpenDaylight, NETCONF/YANG, and “white boxes” are not SDN.

Surprised to hear me make those heretical statements? I do so to highlight the misconception that SDN is a specific thing, that there is a single implementation accepted by everyone. On the contrary, SDN is a software-first approach to networking, and while OpenFlow and the like may show up in an implementation of SDN, they are certainly not required. Just like with comfortable shoes, there is no one-size-fits-all SDN implementation.

SDN is an approach to networking with roots in business, network, and operations transformation. It stems from a recognition that networks have been trapped in “box thinking” for ages gone by and need to become dynamic and responsive to change, easily and centrally controlled, automated, and less expensive to operate. An “SDN strategy” starts with a recognition that we, service providers and vendors alike, cannot continue to build and operate networks the same old way.

When I meet with service providers to discuss SDN, there is always interest in hearing about our involvement with the ON.Lab CORD project. Most often, the discussion ends with something to the effect of, “I can see the benefits, but CORD is not right for our network.” They are correct. CORD is an expansive “all in” architecture that is not a good fit for many service providers. Fortunately, there are easy-to-adopt technologies that can deliver on the goals of SDN in every network.

  • Open, standardized APIs for all operations (see my past blogs on diagnostics and customer support)
  • Software decoupled from the underlying hardware
  • Containerized software that can be independently developed, tested, and deployed
  • Data center inspired software resiliency that delivers always on operation
  • Hierarchical network domain control that scales, automates, and isolates network operations

If it’s not obvious, the list above is all part of AXOS. And to be clear, AXOS is not SDN either – it is the foundation upon which to build Software Defined Access networks that deliver on the goals of SDN and solve real problems for service providers.

Every service provider’s network and operations environment is unique, so expect that the SDN solution for your network will be unique also. Stay focused on the end goal and get to know your own SDN shoe size.