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Thursday, October 22, 2015

SDN & Multi-layer Transport SDN: Notes from Layer123 SDN OpenFlow World Congress

This year’s Layer123 SDN OpenFlow World Congress in Dusseldorf, Germany, was quite an expanded event from last year with over more than 1,500 people registering.

There was a great mix of presentations from equipment suppliers, services providers and open source organizations at the event. SDN and NFV were, of course, top of mind at the event. The number of SDN and NFV PoCs and trials continue to grow rapidly, but live commercial deployments outside the data center remain elusive. Our ideas and thinking about the application of this technology in our networks has, however, matured. The focus has shifted, correctly I believe, from minimizing capital costs with COTS hardware to agile revenue generation via network automation and programmability.

Although many challenges remain, the single biggest barrier to mass SDN commercial deployment is operationalization of the technology. It is not just commissioning either. A virtualized and programmable network must still be operated and managed throughout its life-cycle to meet changing networking demands and customer service level agreements. In one conversation with an equipment manufacture, we discussed the simple scenario of a fan failure in a server running multiple VMs and VNFs. Who would know of the failure? How would they know and when would they know? Part of the beauty of an NFV environment is that the VM/VNF can simply be moved to other physical machines. However, financial considerations will always dictate that there is a limit to the number of physical machines (COTS or otherwise) installed in a service provider network. The underlying physical network will have to be maintained and failures addressed lest they eventually lead to poor network performance and customer satisfaction.

The fact that there was broad acknowledgment about the need to close the operational gaps is encouraging and a major step toward increasing commercial deployments.

Multi-layer Transport SDN was another topic that generated a lot of chatter in both Layer123 sessions and at a lunch-time debating table. Is multi-layer only through Layer 2 or 2.5? Or does it involve Layer 3 and IP?

After some discussion, the general consensus emerged that in order to maximize the value of an agile SDN-enabled network, multi-layer SDN and associated path computation must be Layer 0-3. The value of a multi-layer control plane is significantly diminished if IP is not a part of the solution. Independent fault detection and recovery mechanisms (think path computation) is exactly what we have in today’s networks with the packet-optical layers doing their own detection and restoration while IP executes its own Layer 3 detection and restoration mechanisms with protocols such as BFD and EMCP. Break a fiber in a network and all layers work almost completely independently to restore paths and services at their respective protocol layer.

With SDN and centralized control, we have the opportunity to ensure that wavelengths, ports and paths are coordinated and utilized for maximum efficiency. We can simplify our networks and drive out complexity and operational costs. Must a supplier’s controller and path computation element (PCE) contain Layer 0-3 functionality? Not necessarily. The hierarchical nature of SDN control means that hierarchical-PCE across multiple PCEs is a viable option. Packet optical suppliers could focus on Layer 0-2 PCE but then interface in a hierarchical manner with a Layer 3 PCE partner/supplier. Alternatively, a monolithic Layer 0-3 PCE is also possible but might require tighter coordination and integration than an equipment supplier may want to pursue. Either way, packet optical suppliers need to drive their PCE thinking from a Layer 0-3 perspective if we are to simplify the network, improve equipment utilization/efficiency and create agility for the future.

Click for more information about Tim Doiron or to discuss this topic contact Tim at

   Tim Doiron

Monday, October 19, 2015

Evolution of Mobile Network Visibility: ACG HotSeat with Sanjay Munshi, Brocade

Sanjay Munshi, Senior Director of Product Management at Brocade Communications, and Ray Mota, CEO of ACG Research, discuss Brocade’s significant new network visibility product announcement: carrier-grade, physical and virtual network packet brokers, virtual TAPs, an SDN based session director and a single pane of glass management application. Sanjay highlights the challenges operators have in 4G/LTE visibility, how to address them in a cost effective manner and the critical need for new, next-generation network visibility architectures as mobile operators ramp up to virtual EPC and 5G with billions of M2M connections and Internet of Things in the not too distant future.

Click for more information about ACG’s video packages.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Deliver Dynamic Network Services: The Business Case for Carrier SDN, Webinar

Join ACG's Paul Parker-Johnson as he and other participants discuss traditional networks and why they are not optimized to deliver the on-demand bandwidth that enterprises need today. Traditional business processes used to plan, build and operate network infrastructure present obstacles to implementing an on-demand model. Read more about ACG's study and register for the Light Reading webinar.

Date: Wednesday, November 4, 2015,
Time: 2:00 p.m. New York / 7:00 p.m. London
Sponsored by Alcatel-Lucent

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Set-top Box to Cloud: Thinking Outside of the Box

Until recently video viewing was done via a cable converter set-top box was required to receive extra analog cable TV channels and convert them to content capable of being displayed on a television screen. Although most U.S. customers still use cable boxes, video consumption is rapidly changing to “TV Everywhere,” where a streaming service allows you to see shows from networks and content creators anywhere, anytime and on any devices. 

Set-top boxes are no longer needed to perform the processing or recording when all these functions can now be done in the cloud. The delivery path for IP video is a direct IP connection from a consumer’s device to the content in the operator’s network. With high bandwidth and low-latency networks made possible by the roll out of fiber and the current DOCSIS standards, wireline operators are able to leverage these capabilities to offer cloud virtualization of set-top box.

Content has now migrated into the television with smart TVs offering Netflix, Roku, etc. With the growing popularity of streaming devices and the launch of new online TV subscription services from companies such as Sling and Sony, cord-cutters are increasingly moving from cable to stream everything to the screens of their devices of choice. Cable boxes may eventually become obsolete altogether, as pay TV evolves to become an app or online service. This is the virtualization of the STB in which all application execution and video streaming are in the cloud and by clicking a remote, the application is delivered as a running video stream to a client. 

There are various benefits of virtualization of STB:
Simplifies the STB, thus  drastically reducing  CPE complexity and cost 
Offers unlimited number of applications to customers 
Able to run applications from multiple, different operating systems on the same client hardware
Change the interface easily

Charter is one example; the company is upgrading its aging set-tops by using a cloud-based technology. Instead of replacing boxes in every single household, the company has built a user interface in the cloud that is being sent to existing boxes in the form of a video stream. A Charter customer can even continue to use an old remote control; the set-top box simply sends each key stroke to servers that take milliseconds to register updates as the customer browses the list of channels or programs a DVR.

ARRIS and TiVo have partnered to integrate TiVo software and cloud-based services with ARRIS’ set-top boxes to offer global service providers a variety of platform options for delivering multiscreen, TV everywhere, and DVR experiences to subscribers. The first product of this collaboration is the DCX3635 Video Gateway, which features six video tuners with eight DOCSIS downstream channels, carries one terabit of onboard storage and is capable of supporting dual simultaneous HD video transcoding sessions.

Consumers have demonstrated that they are willing to pay for high-quality premium content that meets their interests, witness the success of HBO, Showtime and other pay for content providers. The versatility of having numerous monetization options for these platforms creates the optimal climate for broadcasters to create a profitable business by streaming video through branded applications. The winners in the video race “are companies who can integrate across all devices, across all platforms with a common interface.” 

The cloud offers this opportunity, especially for those providers willing to think outside of the box.

For more information about ACG’s video services, contact

Meghna Zutshi