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The Reality of Open Networking in CSP Transformation

Roz Roseboro
10/5/2018
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Communications service providers have more technology choices than ever before, with many embracing open networking as part of their network and operational transformations. High-performance networking, automation, cloud-native architectures, big data and analytics, orchestration and software-defined networking (SDN) are all contributing to greater agility and flexibility that CSPs need to thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Heavy Reading and Linux Foundation Networking collaborated with six industry sponsors -- Affirmed/Intel, Amdocs, CloudOps, Ericsson, Netgate and Red Hat -- to survey CSPs around the world about the current state-of-play in open networking. The results of this collaboration are presented in the recently published Open Networking Survey Report. The survey reveals that CSPs are, indeed, embracing these new technologies and overhauling their operational processes more broadly than anticipated -- laying a solid foundation for innovation and future growth. "From the number of CSPs expecting open source to be a critical component of next-gen networks, to the growing importance of emerging technologies like DevOps and cloud native, it's encouraging to see open source continue to mature and watch real progress unfold," said Heather Kirksey, vice president of Ecosystem and Community at LF Networking (LFN).

The performance of open, standardized platforms -- as opposed to closed, vendor proprietary platforms -- required to support virtualized network functions was an early concern, but one that appears to have been largely erased by software technology advances combined with powerful commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) processors. Many CSPs have already deployed open networking solutions, and most who haven't, plan to do so soon. "The forces of mobility, virtualization, and cloud represent a perfect storm that is reshaping the entire communications landscape -- for service providers, businesses and consumers," says Jim Thompson, CTO at Netgate. "But historically, service providers have been confronted with the age-old engineering dilemma of 'good, cheap, fast -- pick any two.' Open source networking eliminates the predicament -- now they can have all three."

CSPs understand that automating and operationalizing their cloud and network services are the keys to achieving the opex savings they expect from transformation. Marc Pare, chief commercial officer at CloudOps, adds that "having cloud native services that are automatically provisioned, scaled and are redundant will be the key to accelerating application and cloud service delivery, lowering opex and ultimately, helping end users to achieve their compliance and performance objectives." Open cloud and networking solutions that integrate with automation tools, DevOps and Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) methodologies are among the technologies and approaches CSPs are adopting and deploying at ever-increasing rates.

"Big data and analytics systems are critical for CSPs to find value in the terabytes of data generated by both legacy and modern networks. They know that this data holds the key to delivering a better customer experience, sustained revenue growth and efficiently manage their networks. The advent of 5G, open source, virtualization, and microservices/containers will create complex networks that will deliver services to all industries. Artificial intelligence and machine learning will give a huge assist to automation, orchestration and policy decisions to efficiently manage this ever-growing complex networks," says Balaji Ethirajulu, director of strategic marketing at Ericsson.

"Cloud-native" describes a host of technologies and processes, including automation at scale, treating infrastructure as code, containers and Kubernetes, DevOps and CI/CD, which provide significant efficiency benefits. CSPs have taken note of the cloud-native hyperscalers, and now realize that virtualization is only the first step of their transformation journey. "In order to meet the network demands of 5G, operators need a web-scale infrastructure and dynamically reconfigurable software services similar to what the Amazons and Googles have today to deliver a wide variety of cloud services," says Angela Whiteford, VP of marketing and product management at Affirmed Networks.

The management and orchestration (MANO) systems that CSPs use to manage their networks and create new services are evolving along with the underlying infrastructure. These systems will need to account for multivendor, virtual and physical environments across multiple clouds. Projects such as the Linux Foundation's Open Networking Automation Platform (ONAP) are tackling this complexity so that CSPs can efficiently deliver services. "Amdocs strongly believes that there is a need for a service-driven layer that bridges business and services requirements, together with on-demand network capabilities to achieve agile service delivery and enhanced customer experience," says Tzvika Naveh, director of product marketing at Amdocs.

Software-defined networking (SDN) promises a simplified way to manage complex data center and wide-area networks (WANs) environments and is often deployed as part of CSPs' NFV transformations. Disaggregated and open source-based networking platforms deliver the flexibility and agility CSPs need to reduce their capex and opex as well as support new services such as SD-WAN. "A majority of SDN controller vendors are basing their product offering on open source technologies, and more specifically, the OpenDaylight Project. Because of this, great progress has been made to accommodate the industry's requirements, and we are now seeing the benefits of open source in production environments," says Tom Nadeau, technical director of NFV engineering at Red Hat.

This study highlights that CSPs are more sophisticated than is sometimes assumed, with many boldly forging a path towards the open, agile, automated and efficient networks the telecom industry requires. Anyone looking to understand the technologies delivering the innovation driving future networks and operations should avail themselves of this comprehensive report, made possible through the type of collaboration enshrined in the open networking movement itself.

This blog is sponsored by Affirmed/Intel, Amdocs, CloudOps, Ericsson, Netgate and Red Hat.

— Roz Roseboro, Principal Analyst, Cloud Infrastructure and Management, Heavy Reading

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