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Ericsson touts SDN credentials, promises first telco SDN application

Software defined networking (SDN) all the rage, but most of the buzz has been around its application in data centres. Ericsson is promoting the concept to increase the efficiency of service providers' networks and is promising to release its first telco SDN application - developed with Telstra - later this year.

Ericsson is showing its SDN credentials this week at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It says its service provider SDN vision "expands the industry definition in three important ways to open new revenue opportunities and costs saving for network operators... [by] extending SDN control from the data centre into the wide area network, all the way to the radio access network, ... bringing both legacy network management and new management system together in a unified control plane ... [and] opening network interfaces to applications developers."

It has promised to deliver its first commercial service provider SDN application in the fourth quarter of 2013, which was prototyped in collaboration with Telstra, saying it will be service chaining running in its SSR 8000 family of routers.

Ericsson details its collaboration with Telstra and explains the concept in an article in the latest edition of the Ericsson Review, issued on 21 February. "Ericsson and Telstra have jointly developed a service-chaining prototype that leverages SDN technologies to enhance granularity and dynamicity of service creation," Ericsson says." It also highlights how SDN can simplify network provisioning and improve resource utilisation efficiency."

Ericsson explains service chaining as follows.
"For inline services, such as deep packet inspection, firewalls and network address translation (NAT), operators use different middle boxes or appliances to manage subscriber traffic. Inline services can be hosted on dedicated physical hardware, or on virtual machines. Service chaining is required to route certain subscriber traffic through more than one such service. There are still no protocols or tools available for operators to perform flexible, dynamic traffic steering. Solutions currently available are either static or their flexibility is significantly limited by scalability inefficiencies.

"Given the rate of traffic growth, continued investment in capacity for inline services needs to be managed carefully. Dynamic service-chaining can optimise the use of extensive high-touch services by selectively steering traffic through specific services or bypassing them completely which, in turn, can result in capex savings owing to the avoidance of over-dimensioning."

SDN also has the potential to directly impact on consumer services delivered over the Telstra network. Ericsson says it has started to develop solutions to virtualise the home gateway. "Virtualisation reduces the complexity of the home gateway by moving most of the sophisticated functions into the network and, as a result, operators can prolong the home gateway refreshment cycle, cut maintenance costs and accelerate time to market for new services."

All of which will become increasingly important as Telstra, and other service providers, race to exploit the increased bandwidth of the NBN (whatever form it takes).

Ericsson previewed its SDN approach ahead of MWC to Tom Nolle, president of US consultancy CIMI, who reported on his blog: "They have a good approach -- arguably the most cohesive of any of the major vendors, and certainly more detailed than either Cisco's or Juniper's SDN stories of the last two weeks."

He summarised Ericsson's vision of carrier SDN as "SDN ties not only to the network in abstract, but also to all of the legacy technologies that are currently used to create services and all of the OSS/BSS processes that are used to create the critical monetisation cycle," adding: "Not only is this a 'holistic' SDN vision, it's a holistic carrier monetisation vision that envelops SDN and that's key because carriers are in the profit business not the SDN business."

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