Taking the SDN / NFV Revolution Northbound

Every organization seems to have different views for defining SDN and NFV.  So first, I think it’s important to clarify what CloudSmartz means when we use the terms SDN and NFV. Below is how we describe SDN/NFV and the various benefits that they bring to the industry.

Software Defined Networks (SDN) is a relatively new networking paradigm where control of the network is decoupled from its hardware allowing a logically centralized software program to control the behavior of an entire network. By programming this new controller we can quickly change an entire network’s behavior.   (a more detailed definition can be found on SDxCentral)

The Benefits of SDN

  • Reduce CapEx: Reduce CapEx: Limits the need to purchase dedicated network hardware, and supports pay-as-you-grow models for customers
  • Reduce OpEX: Enables software-driven control of network elements (such as hardware /software switches and routers that are now programmable) making it easier to design, deploy, manage, and scale networks. This capability to automate provisioning and orchestration with documented, repeatable, software-driven processes optimizes service availability and reliability by reducing overall management time and mistakes.
  • Agile, Flexible Functionality: Helps companies rapidly deploy new applications, services, and infrastructure to quickly meet changing business goals and objectives.
  • Market Creativity and Acceleration: Enables organizations to create new types of applications, services, and business models that offer new revenue streams and value from the network.

Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is an initiative to virtualize network functions/services previously performed by proprietary, dedicated hardware. To “virtualize” means the act of creating a centralized software version of a function/service which was formerly only available within a dedicated hardware device.  Both SDN/NFV offerings behave and appear to the user as the actual device that they have used for purchasing services.  (a more detailed definition can be found on SDxCentral)

The Benefits of NFV

  • Reduce CapEx: Limits the need to purchase dedicated network hardware and supports pay-as-you-grow models for customers
  • Reduce OpEX: Reduces space, power and cooling requirements of equipment no longer required and simplifies network services management.
  • Agile, Flexible Functionality: Quickly scale up/down, in/out or change services to address market demands. Supports innovation/creativity by enabling services to be delivered via software on any industry-standard server hardware.
  • Market Creativity and Acceleration: Reduces time to deploy new network services (new revenue streams) to support evolving business needs, rapidly reacts to new market opportunities and improves ROI. NFV lowers the risks associated with introduction of new services, allowing providers to easily create, develop and test new services to determine what best meets the needs of customers.

Northbound vs. Southbound:
We should also take a moment and define what CloudSmartz means when we say “Northbound” or “Southbound” when discussing SDN or NFV.

In the SDN world, the Southbound interface is the protocol specification whose main function is to enable communication between the SDN controller and the network nodes (physical / virtual switches and routers) so that the router can discover network topology, define network flows and implement requests relayed via APIs.

The Northbound interface is a protocol-supported communication between the controller and BSS/OSS applications. Data centers functions of Southbound APIs include; communication with the switch fabric, network virtualization protocols, integration of a distributed computing network. The Northbound APIs include management solutions for automation and orchestration.

CloudSmartz considers “Southbound” as the controller, orchestrator, (which are both a mixture of open source, semi-proprietary and proprietary services), physical networks and data centers (see graphic below).  We consider “Northbound” as integration to a BSS/OSS stack which will incorporate the dimension of time into dynamic inventory, pricing, billing etc. This allows for the monetization and productization of services that includes a customer self-service portal for SDN/NFV  and virtualized/cloud service offerings.

CloudSmartz SDxSuite: CloudSmartz Northbound SDN & NFV Solutions
CloudSmartz SDxSuite: CloudSmartz Northbound SDN & NFV Solutions


CloudSmartz’ Position:

At CloudSmartz we maintain that SDN and NFV capabilities will not begin to touch their true commercial potential for Service Providers until they have an OSS/BSS that can take advantage of the revolution on the network and in the data center. Service providers may be able to turn up a service at the click of a button reducing their costs and provisioning intervals, however if they cannot track events, support a pay as you grow/use model, dynamically price, invoice,  expose all the new “at-the-click-of-a-button-services” through a customer portal…. then we believe they are missing a huge opportunity! The SDN/NFV revolution allows CloudSmartz to propose a modular OSS/BSS platform and Professional Services for integration that will jump start Service Providers ability to productize and monetize their new service offerings and capabilities.

Realizing the Benefits of  the SDN & NFV Revolution:

The industry has been heavily “Southbound” focused because the “Northbound” is dependent upon the Southbound being functional and available for control.  Service Providers have been primarily achieving CapEx and OpEx savings benefits of SDN & NFV (which is important and not to be trivialized).  It’s a logical first step and a big step. However, with the Southbound side becoming solidified and standardized we believe it’s time to turn our attention Northbound. We can capitalize beyond CapEx and OpEx savings and while moving on to generating new streams of revenue by productizing and monetizing newly virtualized capabilities and services.

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