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Colt Reveals SDN & NFV Next Steps

Iain Morris
3/30/2017
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Enterprise communications player Colt is set to add further network-as-a-service offerings to its Novitas platform, including an Internet-access-on-demand feature, and says it will extend the availability of other services into Asia in the months ahead.

The network operator, which caters to enterprise customers in Europe and Asia, has been pioneering the rollout of services based on SDN and NFV technology, launching a DCNet-as-a-service offering in October 2015 -- as first revealed by Light Reading -- and adding SD-WAN and Ethernet-on-demand services in the last six months. (See Colt Launches SDN-Based Data Center Offer.)

Apparently keen to maintain that momentum, the company has revealed that an Internet-access-on-demand product is in development and will be the next service that gets launched on the Novitas platform, which takes advantage of Colt's SDN and NFV investments and includes a web portal for customers to order and customize their services.

In the meantime, Colt Technology Services Group Ltd (London: COLT) is also working on making improvements to its Ethernet-on-demand service. The version launched in February covered more than 5,000 enterprise buildings, but Colt's target is to reach "all connected buildings," said Javier Benitez, a senior network architect at Colt, during last week's MPLS, SDN and NFV World Congress in Paris.

Another goal is to extend public cloud connectivity, says Benitez, noting that Colt has been offering connectivity to Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services since the beginning of this year.

On the technology side, Colt is currently deploying what it calls a "Packet SDN IQ Network," which clearly builds on the IQ Network it maintains across its European and Asian footprint.

Described as a "100Gbit/s optimized network," that infrastructure now takes in about 200 data centers and "carrier hotels" worldwide, and already incorporates elements of SDN and NFV technology. But the modifications will include features such as a path computation element (PCE) for traffic steering, and a new end-to-end orchestration platform, and seem designed at least partly to burnish the SD-WAN proposition.

"With SD-WAN evolution we are moving from the original product focused on a specific and narrow use case, which is off-net hybrid, and extending it to include Internet-only and MPLS-only support with firewall and DPI [deep packet inspection] support on top," says Benitez.

Still at the planning stage is what Benitez calls a "unified NFV platform" that should support further benefits for customers and Colt. "There are bits missing but we want to build a distributed platform that reaches right up to the customer premises equipment," says Benitez. Colt is still evaluating developments and options in several areas, including the NFV orchestrator and generic VNF (virtual networks function) manager.


For more NFV-related coverage and insights, check out our dedicated NFV content channel here on Light Reading.


Colt is also carrying out research into optical SDN technology with the goal of developing a "fully disaggregated, software-controllable optical transport network," it said in a presentation in Paris.

That should support both internal and external use cases, says Benitez. On the internal side, those could include service and network automation and a multivendor optical network, while on-demand offerings for customers might cover optical-connectivity-on-demand and route-selection-on-demand services.

Benitez says the SDN and NFV journey so far has come with its fair share of challenges -- not least the requirement for "innovation and new thinking" on the product side of the equation.

"We come from a different type of services domain and had to get up to speed in understanding new commercial models and how to propose these to customers," he says. "And even though customers are asking for it the reality is that they need to change internally to consume these services -- it's not easy for business customers to move to a situation where services can be consumed on demand."

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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