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New Technology Needs Networking

Feb 21, 2017

Technologies that are set to change the world are starting to emerge. What does this mean for networking? Mike McBride shares his thoughts. 

Last month, alongside 175,000 of my closest friends, I attended CES in Las Vegas and witnessed a staggering amount of connected devices. From very cool autonomous vehicles to not–quite-as-cool connected hair brushes and everything in between, it was a fascinating week. Super thin (and big!) televisions, an underwater drone and fish finder, and robots that fold clothes. There were also a lot of smart technologies including smart clothing, glasses, watches and phones. Augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) was particularly huge at CES this year. AR/VR has seen a new life recently and is being used in education, retail, sports, crime prevention, manufacturing and entertainment. One of the more fascinating areas for AR/VR is in medical applications. AR/VR is being used for pain management, autism therapy, surgery, overcoming phobias, PTSD, stroke rehabilitation, visual and hearing impairment, motion sickness, neuro-technology, etc. Eventually we will arrive to where we can use teleportation to have a “face to face” conversation with healthcare professionals and review therapy and results from our home. It would be nice to save a trip to the doctor.

Besides all the new gadgets to make our homes smarter, and hopefully improve our quality of life, how does this new technology apply to networking? They need us. Bad. Many of these connected devices need a low latency and ultra-high throughput slice of the network. The 360° stereoscopic views need many times the bandwidth than traditional 2D content. 4k and 8k content will tax networks. Access and transport networks will need to be optimized for high throughput. Nothing, other than perhaps security, will be more important than to have these networks dynamically adjust to traffic demands and prioritize streams using SDN and traffic steering. Connected cars and driverless vehicles will require having intelligent networks.  It will be imperative for V2V (vehicle to vehicle) and V2I (vehicle to infrastructure) to work over a highly optimized software controlled network. Human lives will count on it. SDN will be used to control these networks, and various open source solutions (OPEN-O, OSM, ECOMP…) will be used to orchestrate the connectivity and services.

Stepping up to this challenge, ONF announced the Open Innovation Pipeline strategy. This pipeline will leverage device disaggregation, open source and SDN to target solutions for ultra broadband access, 5G and packet-optical core in addition to IoT (autonomous vehicles, drones, robots) and Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality video. Networks will need to be upgraded to support these emerging technologies and there is no better time for the ONF to lead in this technology shift.

Now, moving from consumer to telecom events, it will be very interesting to see at Mobile World Congress this month the 5G networks on display and how they will support critical IoT, AR/VR and autonomous vehicle requirements. The 5G standards work needs our input into use cases, experience, architectures and SDN to help ensure these emerging technology requirements are fully met by the 5G SDN/NFV ecosystem. Is emerging technology our SDN killer app (i.e. what would be the application that drives it into the mainstream)? Perhaps. If SDN and NFV can deliver high performance, low latency, high throughput dynamic networks to support all of these wonderful technologies, then you bet!

Networking has never been more important. Developing technology to directly impact one’s quality of life is probably about as good as it gets for career satisfaction. So let’s keep on fighting the good SDN fight by ensuring these amazing technological advances succeed across our networks and improve lives along the way.

-Mike McBride, Senior Director of Innovation & Technology Strategy at Huawei and ONF Deputy Area Director