SDN is changing the game: Dan Pitt

Networking unlike other areas of IT has not any seen any game changing innovation in decades, SDN is about to change: Dan Pitt, Executive Director, Open Networking Foundation

Nandita Singh
New Update
Dan Pitt Executive Director ONF

By Nandita Singh


In January 2015, India saw its first major SDN gathering at the – Open SDN India Technology Symposium in Bengaluru. Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a technology that is redefining the networking industry with a tectonic shift of value from hardware to software. According to Dan Pitt, who has helmed Open Networking Foundation (ONF) as its executive director since the Foundation came into existence in 2011, SDN is the next big thing in networking in decades, perhaps the next big thing after networking itself.

Voice&Data interviews Dan Pitt who was on his first ever visit to India to gauge what is required to drive SDN adoption by enterprises in India and how to enroll more of the community in contributing to building standards, given that Bengaluru is a coding-skill dense city of India, one of the focus geographies for ONF in the Asia Pacific region.

Some excerpts:


Voice&Data: Can you elaborate on operator deployment trends in SDN?

Dan Pitt: Operators have unique needs. They need to quickly qualify who you are and where you are and scale up services rapidly. And they need technology that can help them do that. Technology that enables speed and scalability to their mobile backhaul, IP RAN, core network, policy, security and so on. ..SDN enables all that and going forward SDN deployments is the way to go, there are no two ways about it. Even though the deployment phases may vary depending on the operator DNA and where they see greatest value first. Every service provider has its own unique DNA – it could be consumer satisfaction, revenue optimization via billing, customer service or any other focus area. They would deploy SDN first wherever they think it brings them greatest competitive advantage.

Voice&Data: What is driving SDN-adoption globally and in India?


Dan Pitt: The fact is architecture of conventional networks does not deliver on the dynamic computing and storage needs of today’s data centers, campuses, and carrier environments. A new network paradigm is required primarily because of the consumerization of IT, which requires flexible and secure networks, and the rise of big data because of any-to-any connectivity. The time-honored approach of link oversubscription to provision scalability is not effective with the dynamic traffic patterns in virtualized networks—a problem that is even more pronounced in service provider networks with large-scale parallel processing algorithms and associated datasets across an entire computing pool.

Add to this the complexity of adding or moving devices and implementing network-wide policies, which are time-consuming, and primarily manual endeavors that risk service disruption, discouraging network changes.

All this when users expect on-demand access to applications, infrastructure, and other IT resources necessitating cloud services and dynamic traffic patterns which require highly flexible traffic management and access to bandwidth on demand.


SDN helps you either save money or make money, and therein lies the value proposition for SDN adoption. Of course, the maximum value of the approach is for hyperscale datacenters like that of Amazon and Google but there is a case for enterprise across spectrum. They all stand to gain with SDN deployments.

Almost all operators are running test beds with SDN, in functions that in their assessment will help them either save money or make money.

Voice&Data: In the India market, given that telcos are reeling under high cost of spectrum, will they take to investing in SDN deployments in 2015?


Dan Pitt: When the pay off is dramatic savings they will adopt it in bits and parts, based on what brings their business value and competitive advantage. What really is required is to grow the SDN community, when use cases begin to manifest in the business ecosystem the deployments will take-off not just telcos but for enterprises across board. The attitude to contribute to the SDN community knowledge pool is what needs to be cultivated. Definitely SDN and Network Function Virtualization on open standards is the way go and our mission as well.

Just in case you are wondering what is ONF or SDN... Here are some quick factoids/ definitions:

What is ONF and OpenFlow Standard?


Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is a user-driven organization dedicated to the promotion and adoption of Software Defined Networking (SDN), and implementing SDN through open standards where such standards are necessary to move the networking industry forward. As part of its quest to make SDN a commercial reality that meets customer needs, ONF is developing open standards such as the OpenFlow Standard and the OpenFlow Configuration and Management Protocol Standard. The OpenFlow Standard is the first and only vendor-neutral standard communications interface defined between the control and forwarding layers of an SDN architecture. ONF working groups are also paving the way for interoperable solution development by collaborating with the world’s leading experts on SDN and OpenFlow regarding SDN concepts, frameworks, architecture, and standards.

What is SDN?

Software-Defined Networking (SDN) is an emerging architecture that is dynamic, manageable, cost-effective, and adaptable, making it ideal for the high-bandwidth, dynamic nature of today’s applications. This architecture decouples the network control and forwarding functions enabling the network control to become directly programmable and the underlying infrastructure to be abstracted for applications and network services. The OpenFlow protocol is a foundational element for building SDN solutions.

What is OpenDayLight Project?

OpenDayLight is a Collaborative Project at The Linux Foundation. It is structured using open source development best practices, and is comprised of the leading organizations in the technology industry. It includes support for the OpenFlow protocol, but is also extensible to potentially support other emerging SDN open standards (e.g., I2RS, VxLAN, PCEP). There is widespread understanding across vendors, service providers, end customers, and researchers that, while OpenFlow is a useful protocol in many scenarios, SDN is not limited to OpenFlow or any single protocol.

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