CenturyLink is looking to balance substantial promised benefits against real challenges as it explores its options for SDN and NFV.
The number three US telecom operator is taking an aggressive but practical approach. At least that's the vision put forth by James Feger, VP of network strategy and development. Feger helped launch CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL)'s dive into virtualization in late 2012 by creating a small team within his staff that worked on SDN and NFV concepts.
"Now we're at the point where any network function we look at adding to the network, our first goal is to find out can we run this as a virtual function," says Feger, who will be a keynote presenter at June's Big Telecom Event, discussing CenturyLink's innovation in this area.
Making the leap in 18 months from initial exploration to actual deployment followed two early successes. CenturyLink first deployed a virtual firewall product. Then the company deployed a virtual content delivery network (CDN) for its internal use, to distribute video for IPTV deployments and video-on-demand services. In each of those cases, the carrier had a fallback position if the virtual approach failed to meet expectations, Feger points out.
"We could always go back to an appliance approach to offering managed firewall services and to a more traditional CDN," he says. "That was why we thought we could take a bit of a risk to be early adopters."
CenturyLink is looking to participate in early demonstrations of virtualization -- such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV Industry Specification Group's proofs of concept -- based on immediate product-related needs, not theoretical deployments.
"We believe that we as a company, we are going toward more managed services," Feger explains. "So when we were looking for things to demonstrate, we do have a few items to solve internally such as the next generation sets of firewall capabilities, security services, and encryption services. For things such as AAA or DNS infrastructure -- we want those virtualized, but for us that is a different level of priority."
Next page: CenturyLink's transition strategy