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McBride on Why CenturyLink Delivers 'Home-Brewed' Flavors of NFV & SDN

Kelsey Kusterer Ziser
8/31/2018
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While customers want more than one managed service option, providing 31 flavors of SDN and NFV technologies is not sustainable for telcos. CenturyLink's Kevin McBride says that as the carrier identifies new monetization opportunities for its virtualization technologies, success in scaling those customer offerings calls for narrowing the focus.

"To create a reliable product, you have to pull it down to a few flavors of that technology as your base offering," explains McBride, principal architect of SDN & NFV technologies for CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL). "There will always be one-offs -- and those types of customers are managed customers with a team working on just their problem -- but to get a mainstream, SDN-based product, you have to hold down the options."

One area where CenturyLink applied the "less is more" philosophy to SDN is in its SD-WAN services. Initially, the operator provided 15 "SD-WAN use cases and supportable models" but now has reduced that down to three to provide customers with a reliable platform, explains McBride.

"We came out of the gate, specifically with SD-WAN products, trying to address every customer iteration of that service," he says. "Now we've had the realization that part of getting to the full-blown monetization of this is operationalizing it efficiently, so you can scale it."

During his keynote at Light Reading's NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver next month, McBride plans to address real-world challenges for service providers in monetizing and scaling the deployment of SDN/NFV and cloud technologies. "I'll start off by talking about CenturyLink and Level 3, but getting to how monetization [of NFV] involves the automation and orchestration features as well. I'll talk about our journey into that orchestration layer, and the virtualized components services layer," he adds.

Looking back five years, McBride says CenturyLink began deploying vendor solutions for NFVO (NFV Orchestrators) but since then the service provider has "been able to evolve the story and use more home-brewed tools." In his keynote next month, McBride will examine various areas where CenturyLink has also developed its own virtualization tools to deliver network-based security and virtualize the control plane for access technologies, for example.

In addition, he'll examine the carrier's journey in contributing to the open source community, not only around NFV, SDN and software contributions but also "open sourcing API schemas such as OWS (optical wavelength services) as a service so we have a more common abstraction to deploying something like optical wave as a service." (See CenturyLink to Open Source NFVi Orchestrator.)

CenturyLink's acquisition of Level 3 last year has played a more recent role in shaping CenturyLink's virtualization journey -- the carrier now has access to over 700,000 miles of fiber, new customers and new opportunities. (See CenturyLink CTO: SDOs Crucial to Automation and CenturyLink's $34B Deal for Level 3 to Close This Week.)

"We have thousands of lit buildings as part of the Level 3 acquisition, and that will be huge for 5G rollouts because the indoor antenna systems, various other systems and virtualized baseband units can use our NFV ecosystem and use Ethernet to connect the various radio networks," explains McBride.


Deep dive into real-world issues and virtualization deployment challenges with industry leaders. Join Light Reading at the NFV & Carrier SDN event in Denver, September 24-26. Register now for this exclusive opportunity to learn from and network with industry experts – communications service providers get in free!


So what's next for NFV? McBride says the industry is entering a new stage where growing customer demand and edge computing will drive the development of new NFV technologies.

"We've seen to date a lot of legacy things being done in new ways with NFV, but we haven't seen those brand-new technologies yet. We'll have this close-proximity edge compute, and it's really time to make sure that the vendor community, consumer states and content providers know what we have and what they'll be able to leverage in the next few years. It'll redefine things at the edge."

To hear directly from Kevin McBride and ask him questions in-person, join Light Reading at our NFV & Carrier SDN Event in Denver on September 24 to 26. Register for the event here which is free for communications service providers -- you won't want to miss additional keynotes from Antonio Elizondo, Head of Network Virtualization Strategy and Technology for Telefónica ; Scott Fairchild, Vice President, Client Experience for Spectrum Enterprise ; and Bryce Mitchell, Director of NFV, Cloud, Innovation Labs & Support Networks at Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T). See you in Denver!

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— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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