Virtualization is transforming government IT, one benefit at a time

SDN eases pandemic’s telecom burden

Software-defined networking played an important role in supporting the massive work-from-home response to the pandemic in the last few months, according to some carrier members of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Council (NSTAC).

SDN is a set of technologies that virtualizes much of the hauling and switching activity that requires hardware in older generations of communications technology. SDN has dramatically shaped the response to increased loads on national telecommunications networks during the pandemic, members said on a May 13 teleconference.

The pandemic has affected the telecommunications critical infrastructure unlike previous natural disasters, which tend to put stress on local and regional networks. The pandemic has put pressure on networks nationally, according to Joshua Steinman, deputy assistant to the president for cyber and senior director for cybersecurity with the National Security Council.

Carrier representatives said SDN has let them quickly redistribute network loads to even out stress on peering points and routing facilities. At the same time, edge computing and SDN have increased the need for coordination among carriers' networking plans, said one major carrier representative.

The industry comments came at a May 13 NSTAC meeting, where White House and national security officials were seeking more information on how public telecommunications carriers have responded to the pressure from spiking teleworkers' network usage.

Although NSTAC is at work on a formal report on SDN,  Steinman asked the council’s corporate members to accelerate a review of a 2011 report on telecommunications network resiliency, making changes and new recommendations. The report has not been updated since it was created almost a decade ago and doesn't completely cover the impacts of cloud computing, SDN/virtualization, 5G, connected devices and remote workforces.

Steinman said he would like to have a revised report in hand in 45-60 days help analyze best practices for network resiliency amid the pandemic response. NSTAC also plans to have a more-expansive report on SDN to the president by Aug. 12, said Raymond Dolan who co-chairs NSTAC's SDN subcommittee.

This article was first posted to FCW, a sibling site to GCN.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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