The opportunities awaiting Communications Service Providers (CSPs) as 5G, Wi-Fi 6E, and other services begin to proliferate are well documented. Faster and more reliable high-speed connectivity means richer content experiences for users, provided the underlying network has the capability to support these experiences. Years of overlaying technologies to support new services has brought operational frustration and traditional network architectures are at a tipping point for failure.
CSP network architectures are rooted in organizational and operational preferences that make today’s mass-scale networks exceptionally complex. While transport technology evolved to gain efficiencies, operational architectures did not. A tradition of using separate and siloed networks with multi-layered architectures survives, and the legacy of this is a network that can be complex and expensive to operate.
The COVID-19 pandemic served as a wake-up call and catalyst for CSPs to reimagine their network architectures with a different mindset where simplicity, trust, and value creation are key architectural tenets. Maintaining the status quo will not work, but with a Converged Software Defined Network (SDN) Transport architecture serving as a blueprint, CSPs can remove complexity from their network and embrace the next service revolution.
Implementing a Converged SDN Transport architecture can help CSPs achieve upwards of 40% TCO savings in addition to providing the following benefits:
- Increased service agility with a simple, resilient, and secure network platform
- Investment efficiencies through industry leading technologies that enable better asset utilization
- Operational excellence by integrating closed-loop automation tools that reduce mean time to remediation and time to value
COVID-19 taught us that you simply cannot plan for a pandemic. That said, CSPs more closely aligned with a Converged SDN Transport architecture would be better able to respond to the changing micro and macro environments. Moving away from being just reactive, these CSPs are the ones that will flourish in the new, dynamically consumed demand model normalized in our hybrid work environments.
There are five key areas where convergence efforts can be focused:
- Converge Access: Bring residential, mobile, and business services on to a single infrastructure platform for an access-agnostic connection to services and converge distinct subscriber management solutions under a unified, cloud native platform.
- Converge Software: Leverage a single, end-to-end network operating system for high-quality, agile, and consistent operations.
- Converge Protocols: Reduce network protocols down to Segment Routing for the transport protocol, and Ethernet Virtual Private Networking (EVPN) for the service protocol to provide advanced capabilities such as network slicing and service chaining. Segment Routing and EVPN have both been standardized by the IETF to promote openness and interoperability across multivendor environments so this can be done without a need to rip and replace.
- Converge Network Operations: Simplify operations with an automation platform to support service delivery across the entire lifecycle that will reduce time spent on planning (Day -1), activation and implementation (Day 0), and ongoing support during operations (Day 1).
- Converge Optics and Routing: Integrate 200G/400G coherent optics directly in the router to simplify operations and improve capital efficiency. This design allows removal of transponder equipment driving down CapEx and operational complexity. Traditional optical services can be emulated over a single IP transport network grounded on a hop-by-hop network architecture to improve existing service profitability. Standardization across the industry is helping to drive simplification of the network. As an example, standards like OpenZR+ combined with pluggables are enabling CSPs to converge their packet and optical networks in an open and pragmatic manner.
With the quantum leap in capacity and density available in new routing systems, CSPs can build a network that will support a convergence of services over a unified infrastructure. The impact to sustainability cannot be overstated here as we strive to minimize the impact to the environment from our operations.
The inherent complexity of legacy network architectures will be one of the most pervasive challenges that operators face in addressing the opportunity to provide greater value and innovation to customers. The economic benefits and operational simplification driven by a Converged SDN Transport architecture enables CSPs to accelerate the rate of innovation to address new revenue opportunities while maintaining robust performance metrics.
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