As communications service providers (CSPs) evolve into digital service providers (DSPs), they must support different digital consumers and services as well as different business and delivery models. Cloud computing, NFV and SDN are technologies that bridge the IT and communications worlds, enabling DSPs to deploy multi-vendor open solutions that enable them to compete in the cloud-based digital economy.
Some CSPs have already virtualized parts of their enterprise IT and support systems in SDN-enabled data centers using cloud computing to realize the cost savings from hardware consolidation and standardization. CSP data centers that will be distributed across different geographical locations will also house virtualized core networks and service layers in the future, using NFV.
Service-chaining and CSP SDN implementations across transport and access networks will complete the picture and help CSPs to create fully programmable networks. According to Analysys Mason’s software-controlled networking (SCN) forecast, NFV technology drives the software-controlled networking market and boosts SDN spend by CSPs, while cloud computing spend remains steady.
SDN Insights February 2016
CSPs are experiencing huge network capacity demand for high bandwidth - including quality of service (QoS) for data and video-sensitive services like 4K/UHD IPTV. Rapid scaling of the network to meet if not improve customer experience is a growing challenge for CSPs. It’s crucial that CSPs have the ability to quickly and cost-efficiently scale network capacity and ensure high availability of systems with automation and geo-redundancy - all without increasing capex. NFV can provide for capacity scaling within data centers, but SDN will be needed to chain network functions into reliable services across multiple data centers, points of presence (PoPs), and even external networks.
The success of cloud computing and SDN in data centers is attributed to simple all-IP core networks, compared to the multi-technology and complexities of CSPs’ costly transport and access networks. However, as an overlay technology, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and WAN optimization has been tried and tested in enterprise IP networks and hybrid WAN environments.
CSPs must be able to take advantage of SDN to build programmability into the control layer of their networks, in preparation for future 5G wireless networks - which will need to support end-to-end network slicing for a number of different requirements such as IoT, secured network separation, and massive broadband usage. SK Telecom’s deployment of an SDN with closed loop automation for optimization showcases the possibilities of programmable networks using SDN.
Shanthi Ravindran is senior analyst and Glen Ragoonanan is principal analyst at Analysys Mason
This article was first published in Telecom Asia SDN Insights February 2016 edition