Light Reading

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  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
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
Last week I dropped in on "Hotlanta," Georgia to moderate Light Reading's inaugural DroneComm conference – a unique colloquium investigating the potential for drone communications to disrupt the world's telecom ecosystem. As you will see, it was a day of exploration and epiphany...
LRTV Documentaries
Verizon's Emmons: SDN Key to Cost-Effective Scaling

5|22|15   |   03:53   |   (0) comments


For Verizon and other network operators to ramp up available bandwidth cost effectively, they need to move to SDN and agree on how to do that.
LRTV Documentaries
Lack of Universal SDN a Challenge

5|21|15   |   04:51   |   (3) comments


Heavy Reading Analyst Sterling Perrin talks about how uncertainty about SDN standards and approaches may be slowing deployment.
LRTV Custom TV
Steve Vogelsang Interview: Carrier SDN

5|20|15   |   05:02   |   (0) comments


Sterling Perrin speaks to Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, about the new Carrier SDN-enabling Network Services Platform and the operator challenges it solves.
LRTV Custom TV
Carrier SDN: On-Demand Networks for an On-Demand World

5|20|15   |   20:52   |   (0) comments


Steve Vogelsang, Alcatel-Lucent CTO for IP Routing & Transport business, talks about requirements and benefits of Carrier SDN during the keynote address at the Light Reading Carrier SDN event May 2015.
LRTV Documentaries
The Security Challenge of SDN

5|19|15   |   02:52   |   (0) comments


CenturyLink VP James Feger discusses concerns that virtualization could create new vulnerabilities unless network operators build in safeguards.
LRTV Custom TV
NFV Elasticity – Highly Available VNF Scale-Out Architectures for the Mobile Edge

5|18|15   |   5:50   |   (0) comments


Peter Marek and Paul Stevens from Advantech Networks and Communications Group talk about their NFV Elasticity initiative and the company's latest platforms for deploying virtual network functions at the edge of the network. Packetarium XL and the new Versatile Server Module: 'designed to reach parts of the network that other servers cannot reach.'
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Bay Area Spark Meetup 2015

5|14|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Developed in 2009, Apache Spark is a powerful open source processing engine built around speed, ease of use and sophisticated analytics. This spring, Huawei hosted a meetup for Spark developers and data scientists in Santa Clara, California. Light Reading spoke with organizers and attendees about Huawei's code contributions and long-term commitment to Spark.
LRTV Custom TV
The Transport SDN Buzz

5|12|15   |   06:01   |   (1) comment


Sterling Perrin, senior analyst at Heavy Reading, speaks with Peter Ashwood-Smith of Huawei and Guru Parulkar of ON.Lab about the evolution of transport SDN and the integration of technologies.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation CCAP: Cisco cBR-8 Evolved CCAP

5|5|15   |   04:49   |   (0) comments


John Chapman, Cisco's CTO of Cable Access Business Unit and Cisco Fellow, explained the innovation design of Cisco's cBR-8, the industry's first Evolved CCAP, including DOCSIS 3.1 design from ground-up, distributed CCAP with Remote PHY and path to virtualization. Cisco's cBR-8 Evolved CCAP is the platform that will last through the transitions.
LRTV Custom TV
Meeting the Demands of Bandwidth & Service Group Growth

5|1|15   |   5:35   |   (0) comments


Jorge Salinger, Comcast's Vice President of Access Architecture, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 and multi-service CCAP can meet the demands of the bandwidth and service group growth.
LRTV Custom TV
DOCSIS 3.1: Transforming Cable From Hardware-Defined Network to Software-Defined Network

4|29|15   |   03:48   |   (0) comments


John Chapman, Cisco's CTO of Cable Access Business Unit and Cisco Fellow, explains how DOCSIS 3.1 can transform cable HFC network to a more agile software-defined network.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Predicting Traffic Patterns for Quality Mobile Broadband

4|29|15   |   6:45   |   (0) comments


Accessing information ubiquitously creates complexity and creates heavy traffic onto the network, especially at large-scale events like sporting events or festivals. In this video, Huawei's Mohammad Hussain speaks to experts about how to predict traffic and improve user experience during periods of heavy traffic.
Upcoming Live Events
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Network functions virtualization (NFV) is not the easiest of topics to take on board, so here's a Light Reading infographic, developed following conversations with the folks at HP, that helps make sense of where NFV is taking the industry.
Hot Topics
Choosing a Technology Supplier? Consider Changing Your Selection Criteria
Steve Saunders, CEO and founder, Light Reading, 5/18/2015
Verizon Saves 60% Swapping Copper for Fiber
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 5/19/2015
Chattanooga Charts Killer Gigabit Apps
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/20/2015
Smarter 'Dumb' TVs Will Drive OTT Adoption
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/18/2015
Charter, Bright House: The Wedding's Back On
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 5/19/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
With 200 customers in 60 countries, Stockholm-based Net Insight has carved out a solid leadership position in one of the hottest vertical markets going in comms right now: helping service providers and broadcasters deliver video and other multimedia traffic over IP networks. How has Net Insight managed to achieve this success in the face of immense competition from the industry giants?
My ongoing interview tour of the leading minds of the telecom industry recently took me to Richardson, Texas, where I met with Rod Naphan, CTO and SVP, Solutions, ...
I recently popped down to Texas to chat with CEO Eric L. Pratt about his company, Taqua.
Cats with Phones