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Future Network. SDN Consensus.

Mar 10, 2014

ONF Wireless & Mobile Working Group Chair Serge Manning shares his experiences as a panelist at Mobile World Congress and his hopes for next year.

The 2014 Mobile World Congress was bigger and more exciting than ever. I had the pleasure of representing ONF at the event, which included a panelist opportunity to discuss “Building the Future Network.” Besides yours truly, participants included executives from operators Deutsche Telekom and AT&T, standards experts from ETSI and TM Forum, and representatives from an assortment of large and small vendors: Ciena, ConnectM, Huawei, Napatech, Netcracker, and NSN.

There was clear consensus across the panel that future networks will revolve around virtualization and Software-Defined Networking (SDN). This was the vision put forth by both John Donovan, senior EVP of technology and networks operations at AT&T, and Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, CTO of Deutsche Telekom. Bruno explained how all services, even legacy services, need to be supported over Internet Protocol technology in a unified way, and SDN is a key technology to get the network there. John described his vision of AT&T pivoting to a “user-defined cloud network” model. Just like cloud computing, the network will be on-demand, elastic and scalable, and incorporate software-based innovation occurring at a rapid rate. In fact, both operators stressed the need to leverage the shorter software/IT-based product cycles for networks and admitted that the old ways of handling technology in the telecom industry need to change.

I explained that ONF is committed to seeing SDN deployed in the real world, encouraging the technology to go mainstream, and not just creating specifications. To achieve this, the entire SDN ecosystem is something that needs to be nurtured and based on interoperable standards, such as OpenFlow, at its core. ONF focuses on organizing activities beyond standards development including PlugFests, OpenFlow® conformance testing, and market analysis. The operators on the panel emphasized the need for open solutions in their networks, and this is very in-line with ONF’s mission of accelerating the adoption of open SDN.

Vendor panelists at Mobile World Congress discussed the many network virtualization and SDN projects underway right now throughout the industry. While large vendors are currently working to leverage their expertise and lay a migration path from legacy to future networks, small and nimble startups are adding highly-innovative components to the future network mix. For very similar reasons, ONF membership also reflects this mix of large and small solution providers, and we greatly appreciate the many perspectives that this offers.

Looking forward, ONF is well-positioned to further encourage adoption of open SDN, one of the cornerstone technologies of future networks. Based on this panel, it sounds like many in the telecom industry have reached the same conclusion that we’ve known all along. I look forward to the networking industry changes that will take place throughout the upcoming year, including changes driven by ONF, and seeing additional SDN implementations during Mobile World Congress 2015.

– Serge Manning, Wireless and Mobile Working Group Chair, ONF