& cplSiteName &

What's Driving the Need for Network Agility?

Mitch Wagner

A laundry list of technology trends is requiring network operators to make their networks more agile. These include mobility, the cloud, and virtualization, with video exacerbating the problem, says a Ciena executive.

Until recently, networks demands were relatively static, changing slowly, in a predictable fashion, and under carrier control. But now things are changing fast, and customers are driving demand unpredictably, says Mitch Auster, senior director of market development for Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN).

I talked with Auster about Ciena's Agility Multilayer WAN Controller, announced this week. (See Ciena Introduces Management Tools to Make Networks Flexible.) The WAN management software is designed to help carriers meet the unpredictable bandwidth demands of today's enterprise and cloud customers. Auster started by describing what those needs are, which seemed sufficiently interesting and useful to warrant a separate article.

Enterprise and cloud customers make network demand uncertain and unpredictable. Carriers need to be able to meet demand spikes and changes without overprovisioning the network, Auster said.

Mobility is one of the primary drivers of shifting demand. Mobility makes it uncertain where content will be received.

Similarly, the cloud makes data sources unpredictable and movable. "Content and apps can be served from a number of different data centers," Auster said. "It used to be from the company's own enterprise data centers. But now the end users can be getting applications and content on any number of cloud data centers. That causes uncertainty. And cloud providers themselves may shift content from one data center to another for proximity, their own management, or follow-the-moon/follow-the-sun efficiencies."

Virtualized computing requires flexibility by moving from one hardware server or data center to another, bringing related data and storage with it. An enterprise customers might unpredictably need 20 Gbit/s bandwidth for 30 minutes to transfer the virtual machine and its associated storage between data centers. "But you don't want to configure the network for that peak. You want to allocate the resources just for the duration of that transaction."

Video, though not contributing to uncertainty directly, exacerbates the problem. Network operators are no longer dealing with short messages and email; they have to manage HD and 4K video streams, along with terabyte-sized data files.

"The overall problem is to make better use of network resources and become more efficient," Auster said. "It's to streamline and automate operations, as opposed to having to go to multiple vendor management systems." Carriers need to allow customers to service themselves and let applications directly program the network, to save operating expenses and, more importantly, let the carrier become more agile.

It's a problem multiple vendors are trying to address. The need for greater network agility is behind Cisco's recently introduced WAN Automation Engine, as well as the company's overall Application Centric Infrastructure strategy. (See Cisco Intros Automated WAN Management, Cisco Integrates Virtual, Physical Networks, and For Cisco, Is 'SDN' Code for 'Crush VMware?') Cyan Inc. recently introduced Planet Orchestrate, which is designed to allow carriers to manage physical and virtual networks. (See Cyan Debuts Planet Orchestrate to Manage Physical & Virtual Network Resources.) And Overture is introducing a hardware approach to help carriers make enterprise customer networks more agile. (See Overture Adds Hardware to Its NFV Pitch .)

Ultimately, customers, rather than carriers, will drive innovation on carrier networks. (See CenturyLink: Customers Will Drive Innovation on Carrier Networks.)

The change raises business challenges, and automating provisioning has its own problems to overcome. (See SDN Raises Business Challenges and Automation of Provisioning Still Elusive Goal.)

Overall, the need for greater network agility represents a seismic shift in carrier networking, and vendors are scrambling to meet the need.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to wagner@lightreading.com.

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Sabre
7/10/2014 | 9:59:02 PM
Re: What's Driving the Need for Network Agility?
@FakeMitchWagner, as you point out, it is not just more variables and increased volume from their models of customer needs, it is entirely new capabilities to build in the agility to respond to the dynamic use of their networks.  It seems that those who can build the models that can adapt and deliver timely, will have a real edge.  It is an entirely different game, not just new rules.
User Rank: Lightning
7/10/2014 | 9:32:44 AM
Re: Understanding needs
Mitch (if that's really your name),

The major suppliers (and many smaller ones) each individually understand what operators are asking for in terms of automation, efficiency, etc. I think that the real challenge is for the suppliers to reach consensus on the right tools/standards to get the jobs done at the various layers and parts of the network. It's one step for Ciena or Cisco or anyone else to have a good software technology, the bigger step is getting the supplier competition to also agree on the technology to move forward. 

Ciena is using ODL as the means to drive consensus, which is good. But there's still alot of opportunity for efforts to get bogged down within ODL, and also for other initiatives, standards groups, etc. to rise up in the future. For the operators globally, there is a tremendous amount of uncertainty within the SDN ecosystem right now. 

User Rank: Light Sabre
7/9/2014 | 10:14:37 PM
Re: Understanding needs
Ciena has certainly been around long enough to know what their customers might want/need... (and it's also been burned by a major carrier testing their equipment and then backing off a huge deployment.)

The networking business is global now, so I assume Ciena will find a customer for these agile tools in an innovative market (that may not be the US).
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
7/9/2014 | 4:42:21 PM
Understanding needs
Ciena certainly seems to understand carrier needs. The question for them is whether they're able to execute on that understanding. It doesn't help a restaurant to know what its customers want to eat if the chef can't cook. 
Educational Resources
sponsor supplied content
Educational Resources Archive
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
Friday, October 21, 1:00PM EDT
Security: Evolving the Data Center
Rasool Kareem Irfan, Head, Telecom & Infrastructure Security Practice, Tata Communications Transformation Services Ltd (TCTS)
Wednesday, October 26, 1:00PM EDT
Security: Tackling DDoS
Gary Sockrider, Principal Security Technologist, Arbor Networks
Friday, October 28, 1:00PM EDT
Security: The Plusses and Minuses of Open Source Software
Nick Feamster, Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University
Wednesday, November 16, 1:00PM EST
SDN 101
John Isch, Practice Director, Network & Voice, Orange Business Services
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation Technology Beyond DOCSIS 3.1

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Liu Jianhua speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Hybrid Video Solutions to Change TV, Change Future

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Ian Locke speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei Future-Oriented Giga Coax Network

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Allen Wang speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei at SCTE 2016

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and take a sneak peek at the Huawei booth at SCTE 2016.
LRTV Custom TV
Assuring Network Quality in a Rapidly Changing Environment

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

As the rate of change and complexity increases in agile networks, the importance of introducing DevOps methodologies for integrating active test and assurance solutions throughout the full service lifecycle becomes critical to ensure that customers are experiencing the service quality they demand. The industry landscape is changing, and software-based test and ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
A10 Networks on Service Providers' Industry Needs

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders hears how A10 enables service providers to accelerate, secure and optimize their application delivery to drive down costs, enhance service availability, and better respond to customer requirements, so they can improve customer satisfaction, monetize their network, and grow revenues.
LRTV Custom TV
New NFV Use Cases for Cable TV

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

A large number of NFV use cases are focused on the enterprise domain, looking at virtualization of customer-premises equipment (CPE). To date, there has been little focus on the use cases and business case for virtualization of the video content delivery networks required to deliver unicast and streaming video to consumers. Amdocs commissioned Analysys Mason to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Meet the Future Workforce: New Faces, Expectations & Motivations

10|19|16   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

Millennials and their younger peers, Gen Z, expect more out of their network and more out of their work. Intel's Lynn Comp shares how the industry can prepare for this new generation of workers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Global Services User Congress 2016 Highlights

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

ZTE held its 2nd Global Service User Conference in Dusseldorf on October 13-14. Representatives from network operators, leading industry analysts and ZTE senior expertsattended the event, exploring the best practice in managed services and the vision to transform network operations into the operations center of the future (OpCF) in the software-defined networking ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cliff Grossner on Cloud & Network Synergy From Carrier Service

10|18|16   |     |   (0) comments

Local carriers offer the collaborated cloud and network service that benefits from their understanding of the regulations operating in different vertical markets.
In this interview, Cliff Grossner from IHS Technology talks about how this advanced service can support business agility and flexibility.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX: Live from SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Cyrille Morelle, VeEX's President and CEO, talks with Light Reading's Alan Breznick live from the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016. They discuss DOCSIS 3.1 technology, deployments and early lessons learned. New products on display include the CX350s-D3.1, CX380s-D3.1, CX310, AT2500-3G, FX150 OTDR and MTT WiFI Air Expert.
LRTV Custom TV
Smith Micro's Carrier-Grade WiFi Component

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Carol Wilson of Light Reading as she interviews the CTO of Smith Micro, Dave Sperling.
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Verizon Wants More Data on Yahoo Breach
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/20/2016
US Issues Total Flight Ban on Samsung Note 7
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/15/2016
Oh Snap! Qualcomm Unveils X50, Its First 5G Modem
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/17/2016
Amazon Exploring Future as an ISP – Report
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 10/19/2016
Telecom Italia Plots Digital 'Overlay,' Not Transformation
Iain Morris, News Editor, 10/17/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.