You know something has moved from being just something the cognoscenti talk about to being known on a widespread basis when traditional companies start talking it up. In the case of Software Defined Networking (SDN) some would say that the notion has already jumped the shark as we hear about software defined everything in excited marketing conversations. But if we look beyond the buzz and see what SDN is trying to achieve – abstracting as much of the networking within a data center away from hardware and onto flexible hardware, then the notion, more than just marketing speak, is a solid one.
The theory goes something like this. Cloud computing has meant that data enter operators can add or change servers and storage almost instantly – all programmatically. The network however hasn’t got the same level of flexibility. Provisioning the network still requires lots of technical planning, manual configuration and complex systems and processes. SDN aims to reduce much of this technical burden by using a software layer for much of the network provisioning.
Alcatel Lucent, or at least its apparently more nimble spin off Nuage Networks certainly sees SDN as valuable and it is today announcing a new solution that is aimed to help organizations optimize their data centers for their future needs. The open software based solution called Virtualized Services Platform, is focused on some distinct verticals – heathcare, banking and utilities, as well as more general sectors. Trials of the solution are set to begin next month and three organizations that have signed up to be guinea pigs include UK cloud service provider Exponential-e, French telecoms service provider SFR, and US regional health service provider, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). According to Alcatel Lucent, worldwide commercial availability is planned for mid-2013.
So, what will Nuage Networks’ VSP solution actually do? According to the company it:
- Provides an open, software-only solution that works with OpenStack, CloudStack and VMware cloud environments and any datacenter network switches
- Delivers network connectivity inside the datacenter, between datacenters as well as datacenter to Enterprise VPN connectivity
- Improves server utilization and efficiency by up to 40 percent according to Bell Labs studies, removing the problem of available server resources becoming stranded because the network wasn’t configured to deal with a particular need or change
- Makes the network available instantaneously no matter where the application is running – even if the application moves to a virtual machine in another rack of servers or to another datacenter
- Delivers full programmability using a set of standardized APIs in clear IT-friendly language
Which all sounds excellent. The only concern being that this is a pre-announcement of a technology offering that will go into trial next month. I’m not disputing that VSP exists, I’m only saying that I’m really looking forward to a follow up call in a couple of months from Alcatel Lucent to report upon the results of the trial. SDN is a very valuable thing – but the proof of the pudding is, as they say, in the eating.