Research Note

August 2020 From casualties at the SDN Corral to the Birth of SD-RAN

August 2020


August 31, 2020

What’s going on with software-defined network (SDN) controllers and the whole SDN ecosystem? In case you missed the series of events, it started with AT&T Communications CEO John Donovan’s retirement (10/01/19), the demise of Lumina Networks (8/19/20), and the departure of Chris Rice of AT&T (8/26/20). This series of chronological events close the SDN controller chapter initiated by John Donovan, highlights the SDN market struggle, and signals the start of a new SDN era illustrated by the launch of ONF’s SD-RAN initiative. After all, changing the world is not easy and it may take a few generations of leaders like John and Chris to make it happen.

Monsieur SDN’s “Forced” Retirement…..

It’s unclear whether or not this retirement was voluntary, but it appears to be the first event that triggered this SDN domino effect. After joining AT&T as chief technology officer in 2008, John Donovan’s profile rose by driving a major SDN and network function virtualization (NFV) effort that led to the Domain 2.0 project. Launched in 2014, the objective was to virtualize 75% of network nodes by 2020. All of a sudden, a huge amount of activity among open source groups such as OpenStack, ON.Lab, OpenDaylight, and Open Platform for NFV Project Inc. emerged, all working on open source SDN controllers.

….Sent a Message to the Underdeveloped SDN Controller App Ecosystem

Last year, it started to become clear that although the fundamental principles of SDN would be crucial for network orchestration and automation, the SDN business case was murky at best. Cracks popped up, exposing the difficulty to sell SDN controllers and questioning the viability of the various forums and specialist vendors like Brocade, which after being acquired by Broadcom in November 2016, saw its open-source efforts spun off and leading to the creation of Lumina Networks. At least, OpenDaylight produced two SDN specialists: Lumina Network with Brocade’s SDN controller and Inocybe, acquired by Kontron in 2018.

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