Company's modeling shows it will need 80% more network capacity for data than it has today, enterprise exec tells ODL Summit.

September 28, 2016

6 Min Read
Telstra Sees Quadrupled Data Capacity by 2020

SEATTLE -- Open Daylight Summit -- Telstra is gearing up to essentially quadruple its data network capacity by 2020, to keep up with expected demand, but that is only one driver for its aggressive adoption of NFV and SDN over the last three years, the director of its enterprise product engineering said here Tuesday.

Crispin Blackall told the OpenDaylight Summit audience that Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) has done the modeling for future demand "and we have realized that the network required for 2020, well we have 20% of the capacity in our network today. We will have to build 80% of a new network in order to deliver what we see our customers needing in that four-year timeframe -- and that is a fairly big change for us to go through."

A key part of meeting that ambitious goal is being able to develop a catalog of micro-services that builds on a layered SDN-NFV open architecture that is largely automated for things such as self-healing and service assurance, he said.

"The challenge is how to not break the IT systems in terms of networks -- what we need to be able to do is to deliver things like self-healing to put the right kinds of capabilities back into the network," Blackall said. "You have a model of your product set, you need to be able to look at what that is, relative to the services that an end user is consuming and how it consumes those, relative to the values you set there. That enables the service catalogue, how you drive health information, rules around assurance and service orchestration -- it enables us to deliver the great experience our customers expect from our products and services."

Figure 1: Telstra's Crispin Blackall Blackall's OpenDaylight Summit presentation concludes with display of layered architecture that is part of Symphony initiative. Blackall's OpenDaylight Summit presentation concludes with display of layered architecture that is part of Symphony initiative.

The comment came at the end of a detailed presentation on Symphony, Telstra's SDN-NFV initiative to transform its enterprise services, which was driven by competitive realities, including the decision of Australia's government to take over the broadband network Telstra had been operating. Forced to focus on its services and how it could do a better job of meeting enterprise demand, Telstra asked its customers what they wanted and then focused on delivering that, Blackall said.

What it found was that enterprise customers wanted an easier way to do business with Telstra, and wanted services that were elastic and on-demand, as Amazon Web Services' cloud computing is today, he said.

"They kept saying, 'Why is it so difficult, why do I have to go to so many different portals to have a common experience we are supposedly getting from you, why can't I have better consumption model? Why don't you guys do what Amazon does and have your network sort of on demand?'" Blackall said.

That led to the Symphony initiative, with its goals of a unified product experience, greater service velocity, zero-touch provisioning of devices, and real-time changes to services, which could be consumed on demand, he added. Instead of taking nine months to deliver a new service such as WAN optimization, Telstra can now do that in minutes.

That required creating a layer of abstraction that went across all the existing Telstra product silos, Blackhall explained, "so you are not plugging deep into the bowels of your network every single time." That abstraction layer had to encompass existing OSS/BSS systems, "because as any service provider will tell you, that is where the cost is, it's not in building out the network, it's in actually touching your IT."

Telstra started with three key products: a virtualized firewall that could be spun up as part of existing services or on its own; a software-defined WAN for Internet branch and remote access capability that could be turned up on demand with zero-touch provisioning of customer-ordered gear; and an SDN-based data center interconnect.

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The latter service led Telstra to re-think its fiber deployment strategy, choosing to use pre-provisioned fiber connections to data centers in advance of customer demand, because the company knew that demand was coming, Blackall said. The strategy worked well with Telstra's acquisition of Pacnet, which had already deployed SDN capabilities to connect its 27 points of presence around Asia.

"The SDN data center interconnect one, was taking the asset we acquired with Pacnet, which gave us these incredible resources," Blackall said. "They had done the real work with Mirantis, all based on OpenDaylight early on and they integrated bandwidth on demand between data centers, effectively enabling lit connections between data centers to be prioritized and provisioned in real time for a customer that wanted the bandwidth spun up, spun down in order to use it for the amount they wanted."

The three products were created in a common, layered fabric, so new products could be added to the self-service framework, he said. "And we set up a sandbox capability such that when we start to talk with new vendors or partners, or with our own developers, we can actually build things much more rapidly."

Telstra did the initial orchestration work with Tail-f Systems , "pulling together some simple Yang models and integrating that back into each component of the stack," Blackall said. "It's not as simple as saying there is one orchestrator to rule them all, but once you start to break out the components to rule your orchestration, and you're service-chaining the various VNFs that sit in the network and how we turn those into product sets, it unifies the experience."

The Telstra executive said the company is looking to see where it can next use virtualization to simplify things, mentioning provisioning of virtual private networks to support enterprise VoIP as one target. It is also now working with Ericsson to address what he admitted is the much trickier network management challenge of having multiple virtualized services and functions in a single white box at the customer's premises.

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