Light Reading
After integrating nine network acquisitions in nine years, Waters thinks he's plenty ready for the tenth, and for things like SDN and NFV.

Level 3 CTO Jack Waters: Network Integration Guru

Carol Wilson
8/5/2014
100%
0%

When it comes to adoption of SDN, every network operator has its own approach, even though all are ultimately headed in the same direction. Level 3 Communications' CTO Jack Waters underscores this reality in discussing his view of SDN, which leans heavily on the advantages it brings to network provisioning.

In a recent conversation following a meeting in Chicago with Level 3 Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: LVLT) customers, Waters shared his views on SDN, the market in general and the upcoming challenge of integrating tw telecom inc. (Nasdaq: TWTC)'s network (if the acquisition announced in June goes through as planned).

He sees SDN as presenting two possibilities: First the separation of the control and data planes for big iron within the network, the switches which live at the heart. That's "interesting," says Waters, but more appealing to big data center operators in the near term. The second SDN use case, transforming the provisioning process using Netconf/Yang, which was embraced by the Open Networking Foundation for configuration of OpenFlow enabled devices, has much greater appeal. (See Netconf & Yang Go Mainstream.)

"That piece of it has more relevance for us," Waters says, because it enables a common data model that can be abstracted from vendor-specific provisioning processes and allow the network operator to have a common way of provisioning across its network based on service definitions that specific network configurations.

Level 3 CTO Jack Waters

"That is really interesting because today, the provisioning process is not as abstracted, it's more specific to each vendor's equipment," he says. "If that part takes hold, it changes our business model."

Greater customer control
When NFV is added to that more abstracted provisioning process, the network operator is in a position to give its customers the ability to turn up specific functions -- such as firewalls, for instance -- in an automated, on-demand service model. At the very least, the network operator's own provisioning processes become much more automated and flexible, he says.

"Customers don't get enough control and they are asking for it," Waters says. "I don't think the economic model of how they pay for bandwidth or for these virtualized network functions has been worked out yet. But we know that is where we are headed."


Our "NFV and the Data Center" event digs deeper into how telecom service providers are evolving their data center strategies. You can check it out here on Light Reading.


The biggest challenge to getting there is having the hardware vendor support of the software interfaces needed to support the more abstracted model, and on that front, Waters admits some mild frustration with vendors who purport to be creating a more open interface to their equipment but wind up adding proprietary extensions or other "enhancements" that become roadblocks to the larger process of creating that abstraction layer.

"We'd love to see more open interfaces -- at least for the stuff we want to use," he says. "Things tend to remain open as long as there is a pretty level playing field. But once there is a clear winner, things start to bend in that direction."

Vendors still tend to develop proprietary extensions, even to open and widely used standards such as BGP, Waters notes. "We try not to corner ourselves and have any proprietary extensions force us to have to buy from a specific vendor," he comments.

In general, he sees virtualization efforts by vendors as still in their very early stages and "not fully baked yet," but is more intrigued by some of the pure software plays he is seeing than in hardware-software combinations.

Next page: Merger mania

(6)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Page 1 / 2 Next >
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/12/2014 | 1:32:00 PM
Re: Classic
Yes, Android is theoretically open source, but if a device maker wants the actual benefits of Android, such as access to the Play Store, the device maker has to use Google proprietary software. 
mhhf1ve
50%
50%
mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/8/2014 | 8:52:37 PM
Re: Classic
Google has *had* a long history with open standards... it's unclear how far it will support "completely" open standards in the future. Android (and Chrome OS) seems to be where Google will walk the line on what an open standard is. Also, Google is creating its own programming language, which may be open.. but will also likely be tightly controlled so that it will be difficult to fork.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/8/2014 | 7:17:39 PM
Re: Classic
mhhf1ve - Google has a long history with open standards. It was an early adopter of Linux back in the 20th Century when that was controversial. 
mhhf1ve
50%
50%
mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/6/2014 | 3:49:03 PM
Level 3 + twtelecom
I wonder how Level3 will start behaving when it has some last mile ownership from twtelecom. Granted tw's last mile network is miniscule compared to the incumbent ISPs... 

 
mhhf1ve
50%
50%
mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
8/6/2014 | 3:46:34 PM
Re: Classic
I think it's interesting (and telling) that the innovations of open standards are coming from players like Facebook and Google -- companies that are competing by relying on open standards, for the most part. Open Compute and other open hardware projects to help inject some innovation into networking hardware are pushing network operators into a more competitive market. But pushing network operators towards competition.. seems to have the backfire effect of making them more likely to enhance their natural monopolies and try to block open standards. 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
8/6/2014 | 2:05:53 PM
Classic

That's a classic maneuver: Vendors add proprietary extensions to standard technology so it's not standard anymore. It was SOP for Microsoft during its heyday as a monopolist and fledgling monopolist. 

Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Documentaries
Paul Bunyan's Giant Gigabit Plans

12|22|14   |   03:26   |   (0) comments


Gary Johnson, the CEO and GM of Minnesota rural operator Paul Bunyan Communications, discusses the company's 5,000-square-mile gigabit network rollout.
LRTV Interviews
CenturyLink: Building the Case for NFV

12|19|14   |   02:14   |   (0) comments


At the 2020 Vision Executive Summit, James Feger, VP, Network Strategy & Development at CenturyLink, talks about how the US operator is approaching virtual network functions from an operational and business case perspective.
LRTV Interviews
Liberty Global Sees Business Goldmine

12|18|14   |     |   (0) comments


Steen Sorensen, VP of business services for Liberty Global, explains where the giant international MSO sees growth potential.
LRTV Documentaries
EE: The Road to 5G

12|16|14   |   16:02   |   (1) comment


Andy Sutton, the principal network architect at UK mobile operator EE, explains how his company is using Wembley stadium as a wireless test bed and how that's helping EE to plan the evolution to 5G.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Highlights of Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014

12|16|14   |     |   (0) comments


Huawei hosted its inaugural NFV Open Cloud Forum during the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014 in Düsseldorf, Germany. The Forum brought together technology thought leaders, senior executives and telecom professionals from global carriers, industry associations, as well as other partner companies in the ecosystem, to exchange views on and collectively explore how ...
LRTV Custom TV
Realizing Operators' Digital Vision

12|16|14   |   5:23   |   (0) comments


Leveraging technology is fundamental to digital transformation but understanding customers and serving them really well is at the heart of digital businesses. TM Forum lists the following as the strategic pillars of the digital business: business agility and rapid innovation, operational agility and effectiveness, IT and data centricity, plus customer centricity. ...
LRTV Documentaries
US Cellular Injects Analytics Into LTE

12|16|14   |   2:57   |   (1) comment


US Cellular's Mario Vela explains how the operator uses analytics for network planning and what comes next as the carrier looks to eke more value out of its metrics.
LRTV Interviews
How Cox Biz Plans to Keep Growing

12|15|14   |     |   (2) comments


Steve Rowley, SVP of Cox Business, details how the third-biggest US MSO intends to boost its revenues to $2 billion and beyond over the rest of the decade
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Bill Zhang, Director of SoftCOM Product Management, Huawei

12|15|14   |   2:50   |   (0) comments


Bill Zhang elaborated on Huawei's open philosophy in NFV solution development and network architecture design at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Event Highlights: Huawei at SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014

12|15|14   |   3:43   |   (0) comments


Huawei joined the 2014 SDN & OpenFlow Congress as one of the key sponsors and contributors. At the event, Huawei reinforced the openness and flexibility of its network infrastructure strategies, and provided updates on its SDN and NVF innovations. Through participations at the exhibitions, forums and speeches, Huawei encouraged the industry to "think bigger and ...
LRTV Interviews
How Cable Biz Services Hit $10B Mark

12|12|14   |     |   (1) comment


Cable operators reached $10 billion in annual business services revenues by delving deeper into their vertical markets and expanding beyond the smallest firms.
LRTV Documentaries
Mediacom Aims to Test Connected Tractors

12|11|14   |   05:07   |   (3) comments


Cable business service provider is taking its services to the 'agribusiness' sector in partnership with farm equipment specialist John Deere and is getting involved in Gigabit Cities developments.
Upcoming Live Events
February 10, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
March 17, 2015, The Cable Center, Denver, CO
April 14, 2015, The Westin Times Square, New York City, NY
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Hot Topics
T-Mobile, BlackBerry Flirt With Reuniting
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 12/17/2014
1-Gig: Coming to a Small Town Near You
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 12/17/2014
Comcast Launches 4K Streaming Service
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, 12/18/2014
US Carriers, You're Going to Cuba!
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 12/18/2014
Google Steering Android Towards Cars – Report
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 12/19/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive