During lunch on Wednesday, we got a preview of a talk here Cisco is giving Friday at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Bad Homburg, Germany. It’s going to be about applying the fluidity of software-defined networking (SDN) to the mobile network.
It’s not really about virtualization (the mobile network kind of has the location-independence thing down already). It’s more about intelligent management and traffic steering at the cell tower, says Bart Van De Velde, a Cisco director of business development based in Belgium.
Van De Velde didn’t want to give away his entire talk, but part of it will describe having the radio access network decide, on its own, when to offload a session to Wi-Fi. It would give the network a tool to let latency-sensitive traffic (videos or even phone calls) avoid overcrowded radio conditions.
Cisco has a recently acquired cog that might help: Intucell, which was providing self-optimizing network (SON) technology to AT&T‘s mobile network. But if I understand it correctly, Intucell does its load balancing based on raw capacity. Van De Velde was talking about something more content-aware.
He sees it as part of a natural progression for WAN orchestration in general, which he sees as branching outward from the network core. This doesn’t mean, though, that mobile-network management will converge with optical- and packet-layer management. Congestion at those layers will be happening independently of radio traffic jams, so Van De Velde thinks the resulting optimizations will be in parallel as well: one function for the mobile network, and another for packet and optical combined.
Given the industry’s love of converging things, an obsession that’s particularly strong at Cisco, I can’t help but wonder if there’s some plan for eventually blending these things together. But Van De Velde said there’s no clear gain to doing that, at least not yet.
(Featured image taken from Intucell’s promotional video.)
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