Director, Professional Services, Du, UAE: “SDN promises to enable us to crack expensive proprietary black boxes of network manufacturers”

Imran Malik, director of professional services for Du in the UAE, is speaking in the Virtualisation & Cloud track on Day One of the Broadband World Forum, taking place on the 22nd – 24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. Ahead of the conference we find out more about how SDN can enable networks to respond to changing demands and how cloud represents a real opportunity for telcos.

SDN is one of the biggest buzzwords in telecoms right now. Should we believe the hype?

Software Defined Networking (SDN) provides a new and dynamic network architecture that transforms traditional network backbones into rich service-delivery platforms. A few of the many potential benefits of SDN are user mobility, server virtualisation and the ability to respond to changing business conditions in a manner that today’s conventional network architectures can’t handle. In a carrier environment or on campus, SDN adoption can improve network manageability, scalability, and agility. SDN promises to transform current static networks into flexible, programmable platforms with the intelligence to allocate resources dynamically and secure cloud environments. Furthermore the growing rate of SDN vendor acquisitions these days justifies the hype that surrounds the SDN adoption.

How should telcos best make use of SDN and what impact will it have on network architecture and performance?

In SDN architectures the control and data planes are decoupled. Network intelligence and state are logically centralised and the underlying network infrastructure is abstracted from the applications. As a result, we gain unprecedented programmability, automation, and network control, enabling us to build highly scalable, flexible networks that readily adapt to changing business needs that exceeds customer expectations. SDN enables choice with the separation of data and control planes and a vendor agnostic interface. The transformation of the network from the classic architecture of discrete physical tiers to a highly resilient, cloud-optimised architecture is already under way, and the evolution continues to move forward.

SDN is a dynamic and flexible network architecture that protects existing investments while future-proofing the network. With SDN, today’s static network can evolve into an extensible service delivery platform capable of responding rapidly to changing business, end-user, and market needs. SDN makes it possible to manage the entire network through intelligent orchestration and provisioning systems and ISPs are embracing SDN.

Network operators plan to build their infrastructure using this innovative technology. Incumbent vendors as well as start-ups are developing a range of products for different market segments including data center, service provider and enterprise. SDN would dramatically reduce our CAPEX and OPEX by enabling us to deploy commodity equipment that doesn’t have expensive, built-in control-planes.

The Broadband World Forum is taking place on the 22nd – 24th October 2013 at the RAI Exhibition and Convention Centre, Amsterdam. Click here to download a brochure for the event and here to register for a conference pass.

How well integrated will SDN technologies and network elements become in the future?

Telcos are architecting their next-generation data centre networks around both high-performance and cost-effective network elements and SDN architectures. For most data centre network applications the underlying physical network will work in conjunction with to deliver a scalable, high-performance, low-latency network.

Furthermore for telecommunications network providers such as Du, SDN holds a promise of enabling us to crack the expensive proprietary black box of network device manufacturers. SDN would also enable providers like Du to move away from embedded routing and switching at the network device layer by separating the physical network layer and vitalising the network management layer. This would make the network efficient and effective. Furthermore this level of flexibility will be a catalyst for the favourable customer experience that we are trying to create in this market.

Telcos are looking for revenue opportunities in cloud, but why should enterprises look to telcos for cloud services rather than the IT players?

As cloud computing matures, more businesses are seeing the value in investing in cloud infrastructure to deliver quick, reliable services to customers. Much of the performances of cloud-based applications depend on the quality and connectivity of the network over which they are delivered. A slow unreliable network is of no use to companies looking to deliver high-speed, reliable services on-demand to their customers. For the majority of businesses, server downtime and unavailability of services result in significant loss of revenue, damaged reputation, and, on occasions, can result in a breach of regulatory compliance. Hence for telecoms providers, cloud presents an opportunity to provide services that enable businesses to maximise revenue opportunities and reduce revenue leakage. Cloud is increasingly a growth opportunity and for telcos this is no exception and this is why telcos are preferred over system integrators or IT players.

What are you most looking forward to in attending the Broadband World Forum?

Today our networks are built using switches and routers that have become exceedingly complex because they implement diverse protocols and use proprietary interfaces within. Hence it is challenging for operators and vendors to innovate. Operators cannot customize and optimise networks for their use cases including the application set that is relevant to our business. Even vendors cannot innovate fast enough to meet their customer requirements. Furthermore, at an operator level, we in the UAE are facing huge growth in global IP traffic, but no increase in end-user monthly billing. Meanwhile, data centres are growing in terms of server and virtual machine numbers. Increasing M2M communication has resulted in increased traffic, therefore our networks continue to have serious known problems with security, robustness, manageability and mobility that have not been successfully addressed. Our CAPEX has not been reducing fast enough and OPEX is growing further, putting excessive pressures on operators like ours. At the Broadband World Forum 2013 it is of our interest to see how other network operators are adapting and evolving their network addressing these challenges and mitigating them using SDN.

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