Our CTO Cengiz Alaettinoglu recently spoke at the MPLS + SDN+ NFV World 2016 conference in Paris on “Policy-Aware Management and Orchestration for Multi-Service SDNs.” If you weren’t lucky enough to attend, Upperside Conferences has posted the video of his presentation in all its (and his) glory on their YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q9dgnkGqYEI. It’s about 21 minutes, but if you don’t have time to watch it we’ve included a synopsis below the video.
He starts out by asking a question that has governed Packet Design’s approach to SDN for the past several years: If SDN applications can make programmatic changes to the network, who or what determines whether or not these changes are good and not going to hurt network services? The answer is analytics. He said that the majority of keynote speakers at the conference mentioned analytics, but it’s not something that’s talked about often. Many in the industry talk a lot about telemetry, which is a must, but it’s not the same as analytics.
According to Cengiz, analytics is what you do with the data you gather from the network. A lot of big data projects overload you with data, but then don’t tell you what to do with it. For SDN management you can get lots of data from topology, performance, BGP, traffic flows, etc. This is necessary but not sufficient. You must be able to extract actionable conclusions from the data. For example, service providers can use traffic data to balance BGP peerings, find a cheaper transit provider based on the destinations they go to, etc.
So where does analytics fit in SDN architectures? Not in the devices. Four or five years ago we said analytics would be in the controller. This is not what happened. There are multiple reasons: First, the controllers became a commodity. People looked at analytics as a value-add and kept it as a crown jewel in their offerings. Second, the controller is a control plane device. You don’t want to be doing big data analytics in the controller. You want to put analytics in the management plane. Third, you could put analytics in applications (such as traffic engineering), but the problem is that not all applications may have it, so one application doesn’t know what’s going on with another one and so forth.
For these reasons a new layer is being introduced into the SDN architecture: A management and orchestration layer as shown in the diagram below. You put your analytics on top of your controllers, and then you write your apps on top of that. During the rest of his presentation, Cengiz talks about this layer as well as a traffic engineering app that is using analytics to change the network.
For more information, read Cengiz’s white paper: The Missing Layer: SDN Management and Orchestration for Multi Service Networks