Until recently, open source has had a relatively modest impact on networking. One of the many indications that open source is now having more of an impact on networking occurred at the 2016 Open Networking Summit in Santa Clara, CA. In past years, the focus on the ONS was SDN and NFV. While those were important topics at this year’s conference, the tag line for the conference was “A New Era of Open Source Networking”. The fact that this year’s ONS had such a strong focus on open source shouldn’t be surprising because in November 2015 the ONS became a Linux Foundation event.
The LightReading Big Communications Event (BCE) for 2017 was held May 24th and 25th in Austin, Texas. The attendees list was strong and the presentations were certainly worth the cost of admission. The show presented a microcosm of the significant issues and themes confronting the telecommunications industry as a whole, with a significant focus on virtualization of network functionality. Other major themes of the show included security, automation, and disaggregation. All of these topics showed up throughout vendor and service provider presentations alike.
“Think specifically about the OTT (over the top) Cloud applications that run on the infrastructure you provide: Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, Google Maps and more. You provide the infrastructure, the satellite links, the entire spectrum of network services (security, backup, bandwidth and more) . . . and OTT apps use it all to siphon revenue from you with lower-quality and often-free apps—from messaging to navigation to telephone.”
When the Shannon Limit was set forth in the mid-1900s governing the theoretical limit of information carrying capacity of a communications channel, it was impossible to imagine that this would someday be applied to fiber optics communications that was not even conceived of at that time.
Up until the late 2000s, implementing carrier-grade security solutions involved a great deal of struggle and multiple appliances were installed all over the network. Ordinary servers weren’t built to handle the resource-intensive software that would monitor and protect your network. In the modern day, COTS servers have greatly increased their capabilities, allowing complex applications to run on general-purpose computing machines. The next obvious step is to run network security applications using NFV.
To really understand Software Defined Networks (SDNs), we need to start from a place far different than the top of the current hype cycle. Instead, where we need to start is thinking about what a control plane actually does in a packet switched network. There seem to be just a few specific things involved in what a control plane does: