Data networking becomes more cloud-like

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Although there has been significant hype surrounding network functions virtualisation (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN), it is clear that there is real substance to the technologies. As these, along with other new approaches, are rolled out there will be impacts on the operator-to-operator market. However, they are the enablers of transformation not the reasons for transformation in itself.

Cloud computing has had a profound impact on the enterprise IT market, and this in turn is having a downstream impact on enterprise networking and operator networking. They are all part of the same ecosystem, and as a result data networking is gradually evolving and becoming more cloud-like – where services are available in real-time on-demand. SDN and NFV are technology enablers that have the potential to transform both the telecoms operator back office and the services that are sold to enterprises and other operators. Business efficiency is a key priority for telecoms operators, and NFV and SDN can help drive both internal efficiencies and support innovative new services.

The two technologies often become interlinked in the course of discussions, but NFV and SDN are independent technologies. NFV was born out of the carrier community, and will help drive down operators’ cost bases through virtualisation. That will reduce the need for dedicated hardware such as network appliances or customer premise equipment (CPE) by moving their functionality into the network – cloud-alike as Colt do with our “virtual CPE” capability. Operators will also have the opportunity to sell virtual appliances such as routers, firewalls or load balancers on a real-time/on-demand basis under the NFV model.

SDN in contrast originated in the data centre and is now moving out to the Wide Area Network (WAN). That is where the operator market will start to see some real benefits like network programmability. Developing network services is time consuming and IT heavy. We strongly believe that SDN will allow Colt and other operators to develop new services faster much more efficiently, enabling a set of new services which are not possible under legacy frameworks.

Whilst NFV and SDN technologies will enable the provisioning of services on-demand, this will also drive the change of buying behaviour in the carrier-to-carrier market. We see the carrier-to-carrier market moving to an automated, real-time and on-demand model, where quotes and orders are processed across APIs (machine-to-machine interfaces) and business-to-business portals. On the delivery side Operator customers will be provided with a real-time view of their network services and they will be able to perform configuration changes on demand as well.

The transition from the of legacy static provisioning to a dynamic model will of course not happen overnight. It is likely that we will get there via smaller incremental steps because there is the huge challenge for the telecoms industry to reengineer all of the back office processes.

Full article previously featured on Global Telecoms Business.

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