UC and SDN - A Migration Strategy

28 Dec 2015

Just recently the IMTC released the Automating Quality of Experience (QoE) using SDN which delivers the following benefits to UC applications:

  • Trusted QoS markings are achieved by emulating the same QoS lockdown model as used in the legacy VoIP VLAN construct but from any UC capable endpoint. The resulting QoS marking solution does not rely on VLAN technology, but does support VLANs.
  • Dynamically programs automated QoS policies requested by UC applications (including when clients are mobile and fluid) rather than static QoS policies manually configured by network administrators. Not only does this mitigate QoS misconfiguration due to human error, it also simplifies and lowers the cost of managing QoS, since it does not rely on ongoing manual network audits or network assessments.
  • Heterogeneous support of switch and router environments by leveraging network controllers that abstract away the differences between products from different vendors.
  • Simplifies and increases the value of admission control, since admission control is automated and provided as an umbrella service to all UC applications which allows for accurate accounting of all UC traffic. In addition, admission control is based on actual network state rather than on an administrator-configured application-level model of the underlying network.
  • Dynamic Traffic Engineering policies which is necessary when clients are mobile and fluid. This dramatically increases the likelihood of Traffic Engineering infrastructure matching the requirements of the UC applications, with a high Quality of Experience to the end users as a result.
  • Simplifies and lowers the cost of deploying Traffic Engineering and mitigates Traffic Engineering misconfiguration due to human error. In addition, it avoids the need for ongoing manual network audits or network assessments.

While Software Defined Networks (SDN) has been the latest buzz in the industry for years, many folks don't realize that the key value of SDN is the decomposition of the control from the data plane. With this single concept operating a network for UC becomes so much simpler as visibility, control, automation and agility becomes the key value points.

What this means is an enterprise can slide in a SDN controller and use it to control existing network equipment without any forklift upgrades. Most think that to get to SDN the network needs a complete forklift upgrade. This is furthest from the truth as most networks naturally evolve when various parts of the infrastructure come up for an overhall. Many networks can be transitioned to SDN by implementing SDN as an island, such as when Wi-Fi is being upgraded, or when extending their MPLS WAN to smaller branches that are not MPLS cost effective (ie: Software Defined WANs). Look at what Cisco has been doing in transitioning enterprises to SDN with their APIC-EM SDN controller. It supports a plethora of South Bound Interfaces (SBIs) including Cisco's existing Command Line Interface (CLI) thereby mitigating the need for a forklift upgrade to existing installed network elements. To top it all off there are a set of vendors such as HP Enterprise that has been shipping SDN-enabled switches for years which can be enabled in most product lines including LAN switches and WAN routers.

Most enterprises claim they are looking for reasons to evolve to SDN, and while service providers clearly see that they must transition to SDN or get left behind, UC and SDN provide an incredible value that makes optimizing enterprise networks for real-time media traffic so much simpler. Think of it this way: keep throwing people at the problem or start the automation process to gain visibility and control of your UC deployment. In the past, internetworking network elements were distributed, so trying to control them was almost impossible. With SDN, and the centralization of the control plane, we can finally move to software defining a network in which an application can program a network. So try it for yourself and start testing to see what value UC and SDN brings your organization.

Next month I will share the next big advancement in UC and SDN with the announcement of a new use case specification which automatically improves user experience by identifying problematic network areas affecting real-time media traffic. Please stay tuned...


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