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CenturyLink Ponders Where to Put Flexibility

Carol Wilson
4/30/2015

SDN holds the promise of delivering greater control and flexibility to customers, but there are still fundamental questions that need to be answered about the best way to implement it, according to James Feger, CenturyLink's vice president of network strategy and development.

Feger will be among the keynote speakers May 12 in Denver at Light Reading's Carrier SDN Networks. and among the topics he'll be discussing is how to address the issues around effectively delivering customer control.

CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) wants to give its customers portal-based access to making their own moves, adds and changes to services on-demand, but has to determine the best way to do that based on the customer, the service or application and the network, Feger notes.

"There is a question around where you want to manipulate the experience," he says. "We want to do it in the most efficient way possible. What we don't know yet is what that control looks like."

Specifically, CenturyLink is working with its vendors to determine whether they should first try to give customers control at the IP layer as a routed service or give them the ability to control lambdas or bigger chunks of bandwidth within an optical pipe.

"If it's an IP-based service, doing things at the transport layer may or may not make sense. If you can control things at the IP layer, that may be what's more important," Feger says. As an example, he cites an MPLS-based VPN, which would need to be controlled at the IP layer. A lighter-weight transport service might be just as easily controlled at the optical layer.


Zoom in on carrier SDN strategies in our SDN section here on Light Reading.

Having control and flexibility of SDN at both layers will be important in the longer run, but prioritizing how that is developed, based on what makes sense for customers, is where CenturyLink is focused now.

"I think you have a reason to have this level of control at all layers -- it becomes a matter of what is better for that product or customer you are working with," Feger says. "Not all traffic is created equally, and not all traffic needs to be controlled equally."

The one risk is that, in creating dynamic services, things become too complex for customers, he adds. "We don't want to give them so much rope that they get in trouble, and we want to make sure the process is efficient," Feger says.

The best way to sort these issues out is in the lab, where CenturyLink is working with its transport vendors currently.

"I honestly think it is a 'try it, study it and see what works' process," he comments. "There isn't really a true benchmark for this yet. We are developing it as an industry as we go."

This is one of many ongoing issues around Carrier SDN Networks that will be discussed in Denver, and you can still join us there by registering here. Telecom service providers can attend at no charge.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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