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Migration. Not Just for the Birds.

Feb 12, 2014

ONF Migration Working Group Chair, Justin Dustzadeh, discusses the unique opportunity that SDN migration offers to the networking industry.

The plethora of SDN vendor products and use cases implemented by operators around the world over the last few years is clearly an indication that SDN is taking the industry by storm and is here to stay!

While software-defined networking brings a disruptive value proposition in both data center and carrier/wide-area networks, a frequently-asked question for many CTOs and those who own and operate the networks has been, “How do I get there?”

The journey of SDN migration is more than a mere technological shift. In many cases, it requires a well-thought-out and holistic approach to not only ensure a smooth migration of existing services (with zero or minimal disruption), but also to create a greater overall business value for network users in terms of technical, operational, and ROI benefits (both short-term and long-term). This is particularly valid in carrier networks, where complexity, scale, and infrastructure investment can be very significant.

ONF made a timely decision to create the Migration Working Group in April of 2013 with the goal to accelerate the adoption of open SDN and, specifically, to help operators with the process of migrating network services from a traditional network, such as a data center network or a wide-area network, to an OpenFlow-based software-defined network.

The Migration Working Group has since been hard at work. It started with its first milestone focused on examining real-world SDN migration use cases, gathering best practices and making recommendations on migration methods, tools, and systems. This initial work was carried out around a framework based on several stages defined for an SDN migration: (1) assessment and preparation of the starting network, (2) planning and phased SDN migration process, and (3) test and validation of the target OpenFlow-based software-defined network (against pre-defined target network requirements) to ensure a complete and successful migration.

In December of 2013, the Migration Working Group completed its first milestone and published the “Migration Use Cases and Methods” document which summarizes best practices and lessons learned from several real-world migration use cases and deployments, covering different network domains, including:

  • Google’s inter-data center WAN use case
  • NTT’s provider edge use case
  • Stanford’s campus network use case.

The group has since started work on its second deliverable, which focuses on specific metrics and software tools necessary for a successful SDN migration, e.g. to monitor, configure, manage, test, and validate the network in various stages of an SDN migration. As a group of experts, the Working Group will also attempt to perform a gap analysis against existing commercial and open-source migration tools and provide recommendations on new software capabilities needed to enhance the SDN migration experience. The group’s next milestones will focus on publishing working code for validating some of the above metrics and tool capabilities, as well as a demo of a prototype migration tool chain, including simulators and software maintenance capabilities.

While for over a decade, the IT industry has been enjoying the great benefits of software-based automation and toolchains for flexibly managing, upgrading, and migrating services and resources, the world of networking continues to struggle with this. SDN migration could be the networking industry’s golden opportunity to leapfrog to its future and (finally) catch up with the IT world.

Now is a great time for key players in the SDN ecosystem, especially software developers and vendors, to join the work of the ONF Migration Working Group and share their unique industry knowledge and expertise.

Justin Dustzadeh, ONF Migration Working Group Chair