Summary:

More NTT Communications data centers with virtualized networks allow more enterprises around the world to see first-hand the financial and operations advantages of software-defined networking.

NTT Communications is expanding its private enterprise cloud outside Asia with the addition of more data centers. The news is more than just a geographic expansion — it represents a full on production use case for software defined networking.

A subsidiary of the NTT Group, NTT Communications announced its enterprise cloud by way of data centers in Hong Kong and Japan in June 2012. It was billed as “the world’s first cloud service to incorporate OpenFlow,” according to a news release. OpenFlow is a protocol for separating packet forwarding from routing decisions, which can be moved from a switch to a different controller. Such separation has the potential to lower the cost of equipment and create interoperable gear that would allow buyers to program their network infrastructure without resorting to proprietary and complex programming options created by the networking gear vendor.

Since last June, data centers in California, Virginia and Singapore have joined the NTT Communications lineup, and facilities in Australia, Malaysia and Thailand will come online in March, according to a news release.

The new data centers will also use software-defined networking to give NTT and its clients more agility and lower costs. Implementing network virtualization in the data centers enables more flexible and automated configuration changes to the network connecting a customer’s servers, even across multiple data centers, according to a presentation NTT Communications executive Yukio Ito gave at last year’s Open Networking Summit.

NTT isn’t completely new to SDN. Last year it was named as a customer of Nicira’s Network Virtualization Platform, as my colleague Stacey Higginbotham reported. The company was using Nicira controllers to move data sets from data center to data center following the earthquake off the Japanese coast that triggered a tsunami and led to subsequent nuclear accidents.

While NTT is making a statement with its expansion of SDN-enabled data centers, other companies that run colocation or cloud facilities for enterprises, such as Rackspace and AT&T, could follow suit with similar offerings soon. After all, both of those companies are also Nicira customers, and hosting companies are popular targets for SDN deployments.

In any case, the rush to deploy software-defined networking in production environments will continue, especially after such a large vendor has gone public. Stacey predicted last month that 2013 would be the year big companies will see that their efforts to prevent network-hardware commoditization are doomed to fail.

Feature image courtesy of Flickr user bandarji.

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