The growing adoption of software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), and network virtualization have begun the trend toward modernizing the IP Infrastructure that runs today’s networks. SDN, NFV, and network virtualization, as well as white box switching, are all fundamental pieces of a new type of IP Infrastructure being deployed today. We define the key technologies for this next generation of IP Infrastructure (or New IP as Brocade calls it) as:
- SDN offers a centralized way to orchestration and control the network. A key component to SDN is an SDN Controller which has the ability to act as the “brains” of the network. The SDN Controller relays information and orchestrates traffic on the network to switches and routers via southbound APIs, and to the applications with northbound APIs. One of the most well-known protocols used by SDN Controllers is OpenFlow, however, it isn’t the only SDN standard, despite some using “SDN” and “OpenFlow” interchangeably.
- NFV is the virtualization of network services. NFV came to fruition when service providers attempted to speed up deployment of new network services in order to foster revenue and growth plans. Noticing that hardware-based appliances limited their ability to achieve these goals, they looked to standard IT virtualization technologies and discovered NFV helped accelerate service innovation and provisioning. This led to the creation of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), which sets NFV basic requirements and architecture. This group recently spun up an open source project, OPNFV.
- Network virtualization (NV) creates a logical, virtual network, by decoupling network functions from the hardware that deliver them. All network functionality is separated from the underlying hardware and simulated as a “virtual instance” that can be loaded onto general, off-the-shelf platforms; a single hardware platform can be used to support multiple virtual network instances.
- White box networking is network devices, such as switches and routers, that are based on “generic” merchant silicon networking chipset available for anyone to buy, as opposed to proprietary silicon chips designed by and for a single networking vendor.
All of these components help define what the modern and new IP infrastructure is and why network operators, customers, vendors, and suppliers should pay attention as industry needs shift. Many technologies that make up this next generation IP infrastructure are based on open source and features embedded security, as opposed to legacy IP technologies where security is an add-on. Additionally, the economic and technical buyers of this new type of IP infrastructure is operated by a different class of IT professionals — specifically, DevOps professionals. Instead of decencies on traditional network engineers at service providers, telcos, and enterprises, we see DevOps professionals driving adoption of these next-gen IP trends.
Check out some non-profit organizations leading the transformation to a next-generation IP infrastructure: