Exclusive Speaker Interview with Imran Malik, Director, Du.

SDN’s World Series producer Tim Skinner interviewed Imran Malik, a Director at UAE-based operator Du.

Here, Imran told us why he was so excited about the prospect of SDN, and why the telecoms sector should be too:

Tim Skinner: “Is the hype surrounding Software Defined Networking justified?”

Imran Malik: “Software Defined Networking provides a new and dynamic network architecture that transforms traditional network backbones into rich service-delivery platforms. Telecom user mobility, server virtualization and the need to respond to changing business conditions, which today’s conventional network architectures can’t handle, are just a few of the many potential benefits of SDN. Whether in a carrier environment or campus, SDN adoption can improve network manageability, scalability, and agility. SDN promises to transform current static networks into flexible, programmable platforms with the intelligence to allocate resources dynamically and secure cloud environments. Furthermore the growing rate of SDN vendor acquisitions these days justifies the hype that surrounds the SDN adoption.”

Tim Skinner: “What promise does SDN hold for the Telecoms sector?”
Imran Malik: “SDN is a dynamic and flexible network architecture that protects existing investments while future-proofing the network. With SDN, today’s static network can evolve into an extensible service delivery platform capable of responding rapidly to changing business, end-user, and market needs. SDN makes it possible to manage the entire network through intelligent orchestration and provisioning systems and ISP’s are embracing SDN. Network operators plan to build their infrastructure using this innovative technology. Incumbent vendors as well as start-ups are developing a range of products for different market segments including data center, service provider and enterprise. SDN would dramatically reduce our Capex and Opex by allowing us to deploy commodity equipment that doesn’t have expensive, built-in control-planes”

Tim Skinner: “How will SDN likely affect your role within DU?”
Imran Malik: “For Telecommunications network providers such as du, SDN holds a promise of enabling us to crack the expensive proprietary black box of network device manufacturers. SDN would also enable providers like du to move away from embedded routing and switching at the network device layer by separating the physical network layer and vitalising the network management layer. This would make the network efficient and effective. Furthermore this level of flexibility will catalyze the favourable customer experience that we are trying to create in this market.

Tim Skinner: “Is SDN likely to prompt a major overhaul of an entire network infrastructure, or be best utilised when applied to specific areas of the network?”
Imran Malik: “In the SDN architecture the control and data planes are decoupled. Network intelligence and state are logically centralized and the underlying network infrastructure is abstracted from the applications. As a result, we gain unprecedented programmability, automation, and network control, enabling us to build highly scalable, flexible networks that readily adapt to changing business needs that exceeds customer expectations. SDN enables choice with the separation of data and control planes and a vendor agnostic interface. The transformation of the network from the classic architecture of discrete physical tiers to a highly resilient, cloud-optimized architecture is already under way, and the evolution continues to move forward.”

Tim Skinner: “What are you most looking forward to about participating with the 2012 SDN Summit?”
Imran Malik: “Today our networks are built using switches and routers that have become exceedingly complex because they implement diverse protocols and use proprietary interfaces within. Hence it is challenging for operators and vendors to innovate. Operators cannot customize and optimize networks for their use cases including the application set that is relevant to our business. Even vendors cannot innovate fast enough to meet their customer requirements. Furthermore, we at an operator level in the UAE are facing huge growth in global IP traffic, coupled with unchanging end-user monthly billing, data centers are growing in terms of server and virtual machine numbers. Increasing M2M communication has resulted in increased traffic, therefore our networks continue to have serious known problems with security, robustness, manageability and mobility that have not been successfully addressed. Our Capex has not been reducing fast enough and Opex growing further, putting excessive pressures on operators like ours. At the SDN Summit 2012 it is of our interest to see how other network operators are adapting and evolving their network addressing these challenges and mitigating them using SDN.

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