Software-Defined Networks Will Open the Doors to Unimagined Innovations

The IEEE SDN Initiative is helping to lead the way by developing standards and establishing a technical community and newsletter

19 January 2016

Ultra high-speed broadband transmissions, the rapid deployment of data centers, and reduced IT costs have led to the emergence of software-defined networks. SDNs as they are called, are networks of equipment that decouple hardware from software and execute such software in the cloud or in clusters of distributed IT servers. SDNs enable network operators to leverage open-source software, and companies are adopting its technologies at relatively low costs.

SDN will open doors to unimagined innovations in telecommunications networks that could change business models for network operators, businesses, and consumers.  Imagine your mobile phone acting as a network node and you could sell capacity back to the phone company the same way you can now sell electricity back to your utility company. Imagine your connected car being aware and communicating with all other nearby cars creating self-organizing trains. This goes well beyond the autonomous car that only reacts to its immediate neighbors. 

These so-called “fog computing” capabilities enabled by SDNs can be ubiquitous, reliable, scalable, and secure. Together with network function virtualization (NFV)—which applies CPU virtualization and other cloud computing technologies to migrate network functions from dedicated hardware to virtual machines running on general-purpose hardware—more agile networks will make it possible to enhance delivery of educational, mobile banking, and telemedicine services across the globe. These services will be provided in an immersive environment that will be seamlessly integrated into our experiences. 

In developing countries, SDNs and NFV standards will offer the potential to leapfrog traditional architectures, enabling communities to provide these much-needed services through such easily deployed networks and services.

The XaaS (anything as a service) model, which refers to the increasing number of services that are delivered over the Internet, will enable an entrepreneur in Africa or a startup in Silicon Valley to become a service provider, which was previously restricted to large operators with deep pockets.


The SDN Initiative recently launched the IEEE Softwarization eNewsletter, which covers data centers, infrastructure, and adoption. I invite you to read the inaugural issue available on our Web portal. To receive a complimentary subscription of the bimonthly newsletter, please join the IEEE SDN technical community. Membership is free.

Eileen Healy is an IEEE member, co-chair of the IEEE SDN Initiative, and the editor in chief of the IEEE Softwarization eNewsletter. Her company, Healy and Co., in San Francisco, provides network migration and business planning services to the telecom carrier market.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

Learn More