Ericsson, Ciena try to jump-start SDN

Ciena and Ericsson working together on SDNFrom a network service provider’s perspective, it’s the ultimate marriage of convenience, something sorely needed in the fledgling SDN space. Ericsson AB and Ciena Corp. are teaming up on some joint transport solutions that bring together the pair’s optical and IP capabilities.

The deal calls for joint development of IP-optical convergence with hopes of spurring SDN innovation and delivery at the service provider level. As part of the arrangement, Ericsson will now offer Ciena’s Converged Packet Optical portfolio, including its 6500 Packet-Optical Platform and 5400 family.

The development pact relies heavily on Ciena’s optical technology, in particular its WaveLogic coherent optical processors. Ericsson officials say they hope to combine WaveLogic capabilities with their own established IP portfolio and support from their global services organization to help service providers move toward an SDN-enabled transport infrastructure using Internet Protocol Over Wavelength Division Multiplexing, or IPoWDM, technology.

The end-game, officials said is to push down TCO while speeding deployment of new services through the use of open, programmable, software-defined networks.

“The convergence between IP and Optical network layers in an Open SDN controlled architecture will enable more flexible and cost efficient networks for Service Providers” said Johan Wibergh, EVP in charge of business networks at Ericsson.” This agreement allows us to offer Ciena’s industry-leading Packet-Optical products. This is a great complement to our portfolio of 4G IP products and will enable more complete and competitive solutions to our customers.”

Development deals like the Ericcson-Ciena arrangement are much welcome in the SDN space, where actual adoption is trailing the hype by a long shot.  While nearly every every list of technology predictions for 2014 included some praise for software-defined networking, the reality is that SDN remains largely misunderstood and that early uptake is benefiting only a few large vendors in the rarified air of large enterprise networking.

A survey of IT decision makers by QuinStreet Enterprise and Palmer Research late last year showed few businesses jumping into SDN, despite the technology’s promises of cheaper and more flexible networks that shift network intelligence from complicated and pricey hardware to programmable software-based network controllers.

Fewer than one third of respondents to QuinStreet’s 2014 Data Center Outlook: Data Center Transformation study said they’ve deployed SDN or have plans to do so in 2014. About 40 percent said they have no plans at all to use SDN in their organizations.

“The mania and hype around software-defined networks is at an all-time high,” wrote Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst at ZK Research. “It reminds me of Wrestlemania IV when Macho Man Randy Savage partnered with Hulk Hogan and the Mega Powers. Unlike SDNs though, The Savage/Hogan tandem actually delivered and both went on to win several WWF belts.”

This “kicking the tires” stage was backed up in an Infonetics Research report  on SDN adoption that showed the market for software-based networking swelling to $3.1 billion by 2017, with about half of that coming from North America. That prediction, while still bullish, is a far cry from other more breathless industry prognostication that has SDN and related spending blossoming to $25 billion to $35 billion by 2018.

The strategic agreement between Ericsson and Ciena takes effect immediately, and go-to-market activities and solution integration efforts are underway, officials said.

“As our industry moves toward a more open networking environment, collaboration within an ecosystem of specialists will be critical for innovation,” said Gary Smith, president and CEO at Ciena. “The integration of our industry-leading packet-optical technologies into Ericsson’s portfolio, combined with our global distribution agreement, allows us to address a wider market with a combined offering.

“Our SDN-focused joint development activities will enable us to deliver on network transformation strategies that dynamically support changing demands for network-level applications and services,” Smith said. “This strategic global agreement brings together two companies uniquely positioned to drive the adoption of more open, programmable networks.”

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