SDN: A Results-based Economy

Bennet James Bayer, Executive, Marketing & Strategy “Chief,” Board Advisor, Development & Strategy, EarthLink

For several years we have watched orchestration and automation grow to become the new hardware in both the network and data center. Network Feature Virtualization (NFV) is a step toward Software Defined Networking (SDN); the paradigm is evolving to one of systems of engagement brought about by cloud, the Internet of Everything (IoE) and where technology is going over the next ten to fifteen years. What does this mean for us, the impact upon our business and how do we leverage SDN to do something to transform the way we conduct business? SDN is the enabler, but it is not about the tech. It is all about the money. In approximately five-years, the small data center is going to disappear, driven out by service provider orchestration, automation and SDN. Software spins up any and every element of the provider resource grid on-demand as a simple virtual machine (VM), automated within the configuration management database (CMDB). Calls, data queries, collaboration, transactions–everything, is connected, set up and torn down millions of times each second. Discussion of this process is giving rise to the concept of Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO)…but we’ll leave that for another time! SDN remains in its infancy; going beyond four hops is a stretch for most, as is the tear down of signaling for things like a video conference, but it is coming along.

What I find interesting is the next step where we see similar virtualization and automation of business processes such as: ERP, FFA, ERP and business intelligence. Now we can do something different in unique combinations. We could Combine IM, video conferencing with mobile and callers in a supply chain application and information in a SharePoint site. Computer-enabled business processes makes sense and are scalable. We can orchestrate endless combinations of cloud, devices and users with information. SDN makes these pairings possible and changes the paradigm positioning for the future evolution of technology from M2M and the Internet of Everything (IoE) to nanite technologies within a decade. What I find really cool is the potential around the economics generated by SDN. As the small data center disappears, SDN transports everything to clouds. The load is distributed to who does what best, at what is the most favorable cost at a given time. A high transaction website might use one cloud vendor ideal for seasonal transactions but keep its information in another cloud along with customer data and resource planning in others. Everything is coordinated with SDN connecting the resources as required. For service providers this changes the way the money goes around the table. SDN combines with cloud in new ways, changing the economics of the industry, channel and end-users.

“As the small data center disappears, SDN transports everything to clouds. The load is distributed to who does what best, at what is the most favorable cost at a given time”

Historically, carriers and network service providers provision their services just ahead of the required capacity. Capacity planning CAPEX is a significant expense and concern, representing approximately 30 percent of investment. SDN changes this by shifting the load to others. In the future service provider provisioning is likely to be reduced to 60 percent or even less. The resources, compute cycles, storage, bandwidth, etc., will come from peering network relationships, partners and us, the user. The economic model shifts to one whereby cost is shared and charged by use in a system of swapped credits very similar to what we see in the energy market today. One of the most significant changes will be around the Internet of Things (IoT) giving way to the wider IoE and the adoption of Personal Cloud; specifically, I believe, in Personal Cloud Appliances. Privacy and who controls all of these new end-points providing information to improve our lives, blends with the ability to provide any aspect of voice and/or data communications on a personalized basis. Marketers drool over the prospect of such intimate relationships; however, I see privacy driving a fundamental change toward permission based marketing. The evidence is legislation passed in China, Japan and being drafted in the UK and EU. Changes are coming. Talking with service providers, I advise consideration of the SDN and cloud as significant opportunities to turn into new advantages. Instead of selling the user data to advertisers why not keep it safe and “give” it back to the user? After all, it is their data. Why not be the arbiter of privacy and safety? Then offer a menu of goods and services that help the user to better manage their energy consumption, finances, healthcare or the healthcare of their aging parents. Again, it’s all about the money. Positioning SDN business models are critical for the future. The IoT and IoE are just stepping-stone technologies.

Twelve to fifteen years from now, these give way to nanite technology. Sand-sized processors mixed in the paint; the wall or tabletop becomes the screen, device and sensor. Wearables? We become the device as nanites are woven into our clothing and even embedded into our bodies. Mobility combines with SDN, location and biometrics to bring about true secure anytime, everywhere computing. Think of the world envisioned in the Tom Cruise movie, “Minority Report,” but without the eye implants. I first saw nanites in the lab five-years ago; the PhD demonstrating to me, forecast the technology would become mainstream by 2024; however, I anticipate more like 2030 for deployment. The technology does not really matter in all this, it is really about the money and shifting flow of infrastructure, information and how it is applied. For business, a change in billing; rather than charging for access and infrastructure consumption, is how we will be able to align IT with business outcomes and charge based on the value delivered between parties. How can the future be anything other than a resultsbased economy?

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