Driverless SDN? Not So Fast.

By some estimates, self-driving cars may soon make the industrialized world safer by replacing cars driven by sleep-deprived, drunk, aged, text-addicted, make-up applying, or otherwise impaired humans.

For now, I’m relieved that humans can override these automatic cars through the use of steering wheels and brakes. I’m not quite ready to cede control even if it means greater safety. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that computer glitches caused market chaos.

Interestingly, many feel the same way about software defined networking (SDN). We get a similar reaction of cautious optimism when introducing technologists to the promise and reality of SDN. We are often asked, “How many customers are ready to trust SDN in general and your product specifically to automatically orchestrate solutions in their network?” Like self-driving cars, the answer is “Not many… yet.”

SDN promises tremendous opportunities to decrease opex and capex, increase revenues via new services, improve service delivery, and enhance customer satisfaction. However, as with self-driving cars, we understand that, for a period of time, network operators adopting SDN will remain wary of ceding too much control to machine-to-machine operations. To help during this transition, and until operators gain confidence through testing and repeated use, our SDN technology provides the equivalent of a steering wheel and brakes.

Packet Design’s SDN Platform provides the safety blanket network operators lose when blindly adopting SDN in the wide area network. Its real-time network routing telemetry, traffic and performance analytics provide the intelligence needed to provision services as humans would, but much faster and without mistakes.

The configuration recommendations made by the SDN Platform to satisfy application requests are based on current and predicted network conditions as well as business policies. These configuration changes can be fully automated (as with the self-driving car) or presented to humans for review, approval and execution with a mouse click (manual steering and braking). In other words, network operators can retain visibility and control while taking advantage of SDN advances by:

  • Understanding the current network state
  • Monitoring overlay services and dynamic SDN applications
  • Predicting the impact of proposed changes
  • Implementing the changes with the touch of a button
  • Verifying the changes occur as planned
  • Undoing changes with the touch of a button

To some, self-driving cars and SDN are equally scary. Someday, self-driving cars will be manufactured without steering wheels or brakes. And someday, SDN solutions won’t need a human touch either. While that day may not be today, make no mistake, it’s coming soon to a network near you!