Contributed By


Jeff Lewis

Vice President of Product Management at Comcast Business

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SDN – Enabling The Next Generation IPVPN

October 14, 2015

Simply put, broadband and Ethernet provide the foundation of the new network.

During one of my recent conversations with a CIO about the price of broadband and its expanding use for Internet service at branch offices, he did some quick back-of-the-envelope math and came to a realization. “It doesn’t make sense that you can provide me with a 100 megabit service for roughly $200 a month or $2 per megabit, yet I’m paying my MPLS provider $300 a month for 1.5 megabit service or $150 per megabit.”

He then challenged me to figure out how I could offer him the benefits of his MPLS network by leveraging our broadband service. Challenge accepted.

By leveraging our broadband and Ethernet technologies that offer inherent scalability and cost-effectiveness, and marrying those with rapidly evolving software defined networking (SDN) capabilities, we have his answer. Simply put, broadband and Ethernet provide the foundation of the new network. On top of that, we overlay SDN to configure highly secure VPNs that keep traffic private and secure. We’re delivering many of the same capabilities of MPLS, but with even greater benefits: a much lower price and far greater flexibility and agility.

A great advantage of SDN technology is that it enables us to configure secure, private networks that are class-of-service aware, and do so very, very rapidly. That’s because, with SDN, we don’t have to install hardware, connect wires or perform complex configurations. Inherent in the technology is the software’s ability to abstract the underlying hardware, and that allows us to make changes, deploy routers and switches virtually and immediately.

In the old world – before SDN – we had to string wires, and physically deploy and configure routers with arcane commands that were prone to error. That is a challenging, time-consuming and expensive methodology. SDN offers a real breakthrough: quick, rapid deployment; easy and fast changes; and, the ability to scale with the needs of its users.

With modern broadband and SDN technologies, I believe we have what will in many ways be the next evolution of IPVPN. It will offer huge scalability to meet constantly growing bandwidth requirements, a far better ability to control, scale and make changes to the network, and accomplish all of this very cost effectively. Could we be on the cusp of the replacement for MPLS technology? Might this new software defined wide area network (SDWAN) technology supplant traditional MPLS?

It won’t happen overnight; these types of evolutions never do. But we believe there will be the usual early adopters – people who really have cutting-edge problems to solve and are willing to try new technology – who start the movement. Others will see the benefits and join the adoption. Then we’ll see the mainstream come on board.

Remember, there’s always some new technology around the corner, positioning for its time to move in and supplant.

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