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Software-defined Networking (SDN)

The World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly (WTSA-12) in Dubai, UAE, 20-29 November, conferred on ITU-T a strong mandate to expand and accelerate its work in the SDN domain by adopting Resolution 77 - Standardization work in ITU-T for software defined networking. This followed a meeting of the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Group, 18 November 2012 where SDN was emphasized as a strategic priority (see Communiqué here). In addition the Global Standards Symposium (GSS-12) held the day preceding WTSA-12, 19 November 2012, attached similar weight to the topic; acting on the recommendations of the CTO Group by taking SDN as one of its points of focus and feeding the conclusions of its SDN discussion into WTSA-12.

SDN is considered a major shift in networking technology which will give network operators the ability to establish and manage new virtualized resources and networks without deploying new hardware technologies. ICT market players see SDN and network virtualization as critical to countering the increases in network complexity, management and operational costs traditionally associated with the introduction of new services or technologies. SDN proposes to decouple the control and data planes by way of a centralized, programmable control-plane and data-plane abstraction. This abstraction will usher in greater speed and flexibility in routing instructions and the security and energy management of network equipment such as routers and switches. ​

Download the SDN standardization activity roadmap maintained by JCA-SDN at: (free download) new



ITU-T’s SDN standardization work began during the 2009-2012 study period in ITU-T Study Group 13 (Future networks including cloud computing, mobile and NGN), and the 2013-2016 study period kicked-off with marked emphasis on SDN in response to the directive issued by WTSA-12. ITU-T Study Group 11 (Signalling requirements, protocols and test specifications) is tasked with developing signalling requirements and protocols for SDN, and this work aligns with the functional requirements and architectures developed by SG13.



In consultation with ITU’s Development and Radiocommunication Sectors, ITU-D and ITU-R, a new Joint Coordination Activity on SDN will coordinate the work carried out by ITU-T SG11, SG13 and other involved expert groups; also acting as the first point of contact for organizations interested in contributing to ITU’s SDN standardization program. The JCA-SDN webpage is available here.


Interview with Dr Aki Nakao, Associate Professor, University of Tokyo, at ITU, Geneva, Switzerland.



Dr. Chae Sub Lee, TSB Director, former Study Group 13 Chairman, explains the importance of ITU's work on Software Defined Networks (SDN).