SD-Core: Do Operators Really Want to Evolve Their MPLS Networks?

During our recent webinar hosted by SDxCentral on SD-Core, we took a survey of interest on SD-Core and polled the audience on some of their preferences in where SD-Core will be applied. What is the definition of SD-Core? SD-Core is the term for the set of use cases that involve the evolution of core network technologies such as MPLS, toward software-defined networking.   SD-Core is very different from SD-WAN, in that it pertains to the architecture of the service provider’s internal core network.

The term SD-Core is being coined because we at Lumina Networks are seeing digital service providers looking to rapidly evolve their core networks and we are involved in several initiatives at major service providers globally. These initiatives involve both PoCs and deployments of various stages. Developments such as SD-WAN, 5G, and others are putting pressure on the core networks not just in terms of traffic load, but also in terms of the need for service agility. Most of the market research I’ve seen says that carriers as a group are spending between 3-5 billion USD per year on core network enhancements.

Our webinar attendees were admittedly parties interested in the SD-Core in the first place, but it’s still interesting to look at the poll results between the various options.

When asked, “If you are planning to evolve your MPLS core-based services, what underlying technologies are you considering?”, the audience was conservative.

Infrastructure for SD-CoreThe clear winner was adding central control to the existing network. I would interpret that to mean a desire for improved service automation and agility for the existing infrastructure.   This also reflects our business at Lumina Networks as much of our NetDev activity centers on adding SDN control capabilities to already-installed switches and routers.   Running in a close second was the set of protocols that would involve changes to the underlying infrastructure including the desire for white boxes, OpenFlow, or the very latest technology, P4.

So, for the next question, "What services are you looking to evolve to an SDN-based core network?"  The results are not a surprise.

At a glance, this data likely reflects the service that network engineers administer today.SD-Core Services

At Lumina Networks, we believe that core networking is ripe for disruption. Emerging data plane technologies along with advances in open source-based orchestration and control software are too compelling for service providers to keep doing things the old way. The question will be in how service providers transition their networks to new technologies while maintaining their core network services. We’ll have more on hybrid core networking in a future Blog. Stay tuned to Lumina Networks!