Spilled Water Will Not Return to the Tray: Japan’s Network Virtualization Revolution

After landing in Tokyo last week, I was amazed by three things:

1. The business climate appears to be moving back to normal

2. There is strong focus on reducing power consumption across the economy in light of the nuclear power plants that are now offline

3.  The cover of Nikkei Communications practically screamed something we are talking about every day now: “Software-Defined Network”

If anyone thinks this is a fad (or soon will be a fade), they need to mark the works of Akira Arima, President of NTT Communications.  Quoted in this same issues of Nikkei Communications, he stated that NTT will have a network virtualization service up and running by June.  That is a very aggressive timeline for one of the largest and most respected Telcos in the world.  NTT intends to lead, not follow.

覆水盆に帰らず。(translation: spilled water will not return to the tray)

Interesting, the three trends are actually related.  In dozens of meeting with Japanese business and technology executives last week, I began to understand that Japan is following a new script in rebuilding their economy.   Why is this happening in Japan?  One word: necessity. After the oil shocks on the early 1970s, Japan transformed its economy into new consumer electronics and service industries with lower energy-dependency.  In the process, there was an enormous focus on productivity and innovation.  Faced with similar economic and energy shocks caused by the earthquake and a decade of slow growth, it is clear Japan is reinventing its economy again.

The promise of cloud computing, powered by network virtualization, will be the new model in Japan, aligning with a new productivity model. These trends have clear implications for the IT industry: business velocity, operational efficiency and innovation are the order of the day.  What is not on the docket is simply layering another level of work arounds to the networking industry’s protocol “Tower Of Babel.”

Software Defined Networking, with its promise of network automation and massive scale, will shift power back from the vendors to the people who run networks.  In addition, software networks, unlike their hardware counterparts, will not look or operate the same way.  They will be simpler, more programmable and deliver new services, many of which we can only imagine today.   It will not happen overnight, but flash forward 5-10 years, and you can see it will be the norm.

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