Windstream today unwrapped the first in a series of new service announcements built on the virtualization work it has been doing. This initial play, an SDN-orchestrated wavelength service, primarily targets wholesale customers linking data centers, points of presence or carrier hotels. But future offerings will be at other network layers and directly target enterprise customers, says Jeff Brown, director of product marketing and product management. (See Windstream Launches SDN-Orchestrated Waves.)
The Windstream SDNow service launched today -- it stands for SDN orchestrated wavelengths -- offers automated provisioning of an optical wavelength using Ciena's Blue Planet orchestration at five data carrier-neutral data center locations in Chicago, Dallas, Ashburn, Miami and Atlanta, Brown tells Light Reading. Yet to come this summer is expansion of SDNow to 50 additional locations, but also in the pipeline is similar automated provisioning of Ethernet and Layer 3 services.
"It's really the first step in dramatic customer experience change," Brown says, noting his company has been working on deploying SDN and NFV for some time. "There will also be more elaboration around intent-based provisioning" as well as multi-vendor support on the hardware side involving a variety of vendors and platform providers. "We are also working on the roadmap, although we haven't defined timelines, to expand that Layer 1 capability to Layer 2 and 3 as well."
A key part of enabling that improvement in customer experience has been Windstream's work to clean up its back-end processes, integrating the back-office operations of its many (66) acquisitions into a single Metasolv system (now part of Oracle Communications ), Brown notes. All but recent acquisitions Earthlink and Broadview Networks have been integrated onto that system and the former is in process.
"Through these acquisitions, actually doing cross-network orders internally required multiple terminals and a lot of swivel-chair provisioning," Brown says. "We have undergone an intensive effort to move to the next-gen OSS we are now on, that is a single platform. We have developed a disciplined approach for on-net builds," that includes scrubbing the databases to reflect the most accurate information.
That includes making sure network elements are represented in consistent terminology across the company, so that an automatic provisioning process can be implemented, he notes. That way, when the orchestrator is pulling in virtualized network functions, it sees the same consistent set of information, and uses consistent processes.
Even for SDNow, there will be some interconnection issues -- cross-connects, for example, -- required to move traffic inside the data center or carrier hotel, Brown notes. The industry still has work to be done on standards for connecting SDN networks across those facilities in a more automated fashion.
To date, Windstream has been fairly quiet about its SDN-NFV work, Brown says, making public statements only in announcing an SD-WAN offer and indirectly in announcements by its vendors, Ciena and Infinera, but that is about to change. More announcements will be coming this summer and likely later in 2017 as well.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading
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