SDN architectures

SoftBank Turns to SDN for VPN Upgrade

DUSSELDORF, Germany -- SDN & OpenFlow World Congress -- SoftBank has an operational pain point that afflicts communications service providers worldwide: delivering new VPN services to customers quickly and efficiently.

But the Japanese operator believes it can turn around its SmartVPN service operations with an SDN-based upgrade from Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) that will make its operations more efficient.

The operator's current SmartVPN process suffers from "long delivery times … a new contract takes a month [to set up] and configuration takes days," SoftBank Corp. 's head of service planning, Nakano Hironori, told the audience here in Dusseldorf.

And it's inefficient in other ways too. "Our workload increases in relation to the number of customers … [manual] deployment is inefficient," added the SoftBank exec, who said that VPN-related capex and opex costs have been rising because the operator still uses expensive CPE products.

So the operator is deploying a bunch of SDN and NFV capabilities from Cisco, including the Network Services Orchestrator (NSO) developed from the Tail-f provisioning capabilities that Cisco brought on board as part of its acquisition in 2014. (See Cisco to Buy Hot Startup Tail-f for $175M.)

The result will be a self-service VPN offering that customers can access through a web portal, which will enable enterprise users to effectively build their own services using virtual network functions (VNFs). The Tail-f technology will act as the automated provisioning tool for physical and virtual elements, making it easy for customers to add and change VPN applications as and when they want to.

This, then, is a commercial implementation of the capabilities tested by European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) earlier this year. (See Validating Cisco's Service Provider Virtualization & Cloud Portfolio.)

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Stefan Vallin, principal engineer at Cisco, and one of the team that joined from Tail-f, noted that every SmartVPN service would be specified using the Yang data modeling language that is becoming an increasingly popular choice among Tier 1 operators with ambitious virtualization plans. (See Netconf & Yang Go Mainstream, Cisco Lands NFV Deals With DT, Telstra, Telecom Italia , Equinix Unveils SDN Engine for Cloud and Deutsche Telekom Selects Tail-F.)

By using Yang to create formal data models, operators such as SoftBank can develop and enable new services without having to upgrade or replace their existing service management platforms. "We need to stop with the crazy OSS projects," said Vallin. "When you start developing a new service, do you really need to start a six-months development project? Just use Yang!" said the man who wants to sell everyone his Netconf/Yang-based service management tools.

SoftBank plans to launch the upgraded service in February 2016, said Hironori. The results, if everything works to plan, will be a more customer-friendly, responsive and quick-to-provision service that will help SoftBank to reduce both its capex and opex.

The development of new VPN services has been something of a trend here this week, with Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) also announcing plans to revamp their offerings. (See DT, Vodafone to Launch SDN-Based VPNs.)

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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