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Get Ready for SDN, NFV, and Softwarization

Get Ready for SDN, NFV, and Softwarization

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Do you know what softwarization is and its two main versions, SDN and NFV?  If you do, congrats on keeping up with the technology. You are probably a network engineer or a technical IT person. From what I can see, the average EE doesn’t know squat about these things. But since most communications is networked these days, it is a good idea to become familiar with the trend that portends what all future networks will look like. The cloud, big data, mobilization, and the virtualization of servers are gradually changing how networks are built and managed, hopefully for the better.

Softwarization is just what its name suggests, replacing some specific types of networking gear like routers, switches, firewalls, load balancers, and other network-specific devices with generic hardware like servers or, in some cases, virtual servers. Less specific hardware, more generic server hardware, and mostly software everything else.

One main camp of softwarization is software-defined networking (SDN). This is the basic idea of separating the control, data, and management planes of current networks and implementing them in software. With such an arrangement, network administrators can quickly adjust to changing conditions to optimize operation. Such changes can be done from a single computer without having to reprogram individual switches or other pieces of hardware. The goal is agility, where a network engineer can run a big network with commodity switches and multivendor hardware. This should facilitate changes and lower overall costs. One such implementation of SDN is a software protocol or specification called OpenFlow.

The other main area of softwarization is network function virtualization (NFV). While virtual PCs and servers are already used, the goal of NFV is to replace all or most servers and other hardware gear with virtual commodity hardware and software. The goals are cost reduction, speed of change, and convenience.

It is time to pay attention to this effort. Our networks are huge and complex and will take time to change. Do some investigating on your own to see the effects it may have on you.

SDN and NFV are just now beginning to happen. It is a work in progress. In fact, both of these fields are still being defined and sorted out. That is why the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) wants to be involved. They are holding a conference on their SDN initiative called the 1st IEEE Conference on Network Softwarization or NetSoft 2015. If you want to learn about or be involved in defining and inventing the future of softwarization, you should attend this event in London April 13-17. 

The IEEE also recently announced its Internet Initiative that seeks to define the vision and mission of future networking particularly the governance, cyber security, and privacy. The IEEE goals are to get the technical community involved in shaping policies surrounding the Internet ecosystem. The ETAP (Expert in Technology and Policy) Forum is sponsoring a conference on May 18 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, Calif.

For details on either of these events, contact Bobby Wong at the IEEE.

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