Major carrier pronouncements about software-defined networking aren't quite the surprise they were a couple of years ago, but Verizon's announcement this week of its SDN strategy is still noteworthy for the New IP community in a couple of key ways.
First, while Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has been working on software-defined networking (SDN) in its own labs for a number of years, the company chose to publicly lay out a strategy that builds on key partnerships with its core vendors. Secondly, while Verizon is converging its many networks into one SDN, the company is also working with its core vendors and others to "deconstruct" the network -- i.e., break it down into component parts to enable the move away from hardware dependency to software. (See Verizon Builds Key Vendors Into SDN Strategy.)
The decision is being viewed as a victory for the group of vendors or an "everybody wins" strategy but it has a very practical tone to it.
By disassembling monolithic hardware structures, Verizon intends to determine how to make software its primary delivery mechanism, and thus begin to move at the speed of software development, says Brian Higgins, VP-Network Planning.
The vendor partnership arrangement Verizon has put together with Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) and Nokia Networks may be unlike what most other major telecom operators have announced thus far. But Verizon's intent is to capitalize on what these companies know about its current operations and how to move those into a software-defined future.
"We have worked with all of them in the past and they have helped us become the network and service provider that we are today," Higgins says. "We are going to transition with them and that is a critical component of this. Last year we talked to each one of those companies about the shifts we are looking to make. They all immediately came on board and agreed that this is the right kind of transition to make."
Those are all large companies, but none will be providing an end-to-end approach, he says. And there will be other significant players that aren't part of Verizon's legacy vendor list including many non-traditional companies. Both open source software and commodity hardware are expected to play a significant role going forward -- but again Higgins stresses that's a reason to have these legacy vendors involved, not a reason to exclude them.
By partnering with them, Verizon can better manage the transition from monolithic hardware with its own specialized software to white boxes and software that can be changed as needed.
Some of the integration required to do that will be handled by Verizon itself, but some may be handled by partners chosen to be integrators. Certainly any of the five vendors named would have integration skills and professional services available at a price whenever needed.
The end goal is speed -- getting services to market faster, and being able to turn them up and down in response to market demand. Verizon believes its current strategy represents the fastest way it can get to that stage.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading