IBM Creates Network Innovation Centers

The two new centers are designed to help enterprises and service providers design and test networks based on SDN, virtualization and analytics.


IBM is creating two innovation centers to help enterprises and service providers learn about and work with network virtualization and automation technologies from both Big Blue and its networking partners.

Company officials on March 26 announced the Network Innovation Centers—one in Dallas and the other in Nice, France—where customers can try out technologies around software-defined networking (SDN), virtualization and analytics to meet the rapidly changing networking demands being driven by the growth of mobile devices and mobile apps, social media and the burgeoning Internet of things (IoT).

"Effectively applying cloud technologies to the network could allow a company to reduce its overall network capacity while increasing utilization by dynamically providing resources during the day in Beijing while it's nighttime in New York, and vice versa," Pete Lorenzen, general manager of networking services for IBM Global Technology Services, said in a statement. "Or a telecom company could better manage periodic, localized spikes in smartphone usage caused by major sporting events or daily urban commutes, dynamically provisioning capacity when and where it's needed."

The centers are aimed at larger enterprises and telecommunications companies, according to IBM officials. At the facilities, customers will be able to work with not only IBM networking technologies, but also products from such vendors as Brocade, Cisco Systems, Citrix Systems, Riverbed Technologies, Juniper Networks and VMware.

They also will be able to learn how to integrate the networking technologies into their current IT infrastructures.

Businesses and service providers are under increasing pressure to deploy networks that are easier to program and manage. They need to be able to program the switches and routers in minutes and hours rather than weeks and months, and to more quickly spin out services for employees and customers. SDN decouples the control plane of the network from the data plane and puts it into software, making it easier to move resources where they're needed.

Networks become more dynamic and more efficient, which is important as more workloads are moving to the cloud and more data is being generated at the edge of the network through such devices as smartphones and tablets, IBM officials said. More agile and flexible networks are needed to link the edge with the cloud.

Enterprises and service providers are able to work with the innovation centers either by working at them on-site or accessing them remotely. In addition, they can leverage capabilities from both centers at the same time to create custom designs that will meet their specific needs.

IBM's networking business has been in a state of transition over the past couple of years. The company has been active in industry consortiums around SDN and NFV. IBM, as well as Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks and Brocade, was one of the founders of the OpenDaylight Project, which launched in 2013 with a goal to create a foundational framework for SDN and network-functions virtualization (NFV).

IBM also has grown its partnerships around networking, including working with AT&T in 2014 in an effort to improve cloud networking and announcing in February a partnership with Juniper on network analytics solutions.

At the same time, IBM sold its top-of-rack switching portfolio as part of the deal last year to sell its x86 server business to Lenovo. Soon after that deal was announced, rumors spread that IBM was looking to sell its SDN business, though nothing came of that.

Still, IBM offers a broad array of networking services aimed at such growing technologies as SDN, NFV, IoT and mobile communications. Those services include cloud networking, network managed services and network security.