|Issue:||Asia-Pacific II 2014|
|Topic:||Deploying services at broadband speed:|
How providers can leverage SDN and NFV to keep up with customer demands
|Title:||Co-Founder & Principal Analyst|
Michael Howard co-founded market research firm Infonetics Research in 1990, and today is recognized worldwide as one of the industry’s leading experts in the areas of mobile backhaul, small cells, carrier Ethernet, IP routers, IP/MPLS control planes, IP VPNs, cloud access, SDNs, and 100GE packet-optical transport. Being an influential thinker, Michael is a frequent speaker at industry events and is regularly quoted in the press.
Before founding Infonetics, Michael was an IT Director at Tymshare/Tymnet, where he led the First Interstate Bank project that developed the world’s first pre-Internet in-home banking system. Prior to that, shortly after receiving a BS in Mathematics from UC Berkeley, he worked for Systems Development Corporation on operating systems and programming language compilers for ARPAnet, which later became the Internet. In 2008, Michael co-authored the book, Carrier Ethernet: Extending Ethernet Beyond the LAN, which received 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com.
Analyst Jeff Heynen is a widely recognized author, speaker, and consultant with expertise in telco, cable, satellite pay TV networks and services, multiscreen video, and broadband access technologies and services.
Jeff leads Infonetics Research on broadband access and pay TV coverage.
As a consultant to startups, service providers, vendors, and the investment community, Jeff helps clients identify new market opportunities, provides due diligence, and advises on positioning, product development, business plans, and M&A activity.
Before joining Infonetics in 2005, Jeff was a Senior Product Marketing Manager with VoIP switch equipment startup sentitO Networks and a Marketing Communications Manager at telecommunications infrastructure manufacturer Tellabs. As a journalist for Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, Jeff covered the rise of the technology industry in Silicon Valley in the mid-90s, as well as the entertainment industry in Hollywood.
Jeff holds an MA from Georgetown University in German and European Studies, focusing on International Communications and Business Diplomacy, and a BA from Whittier College, where he double-majored in International Relations and English Literature and double-minored in Psychology and Journalism. While in grad school, Jeff co-authored A Force More Powerful, a book on the history of non-violent conflict resolution.
Software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) will be key components of tomorrow’s intelligent broadband networks, enabling service providers to quickly deliver new services: such as multiscreen video, parental controls, improved firewall, virus protections and more, via software. Service providers will be able to deploy software-based services and applications in their networks and make them available to customers in a matter of hours, days, or weeks, rather than the months or even years it takes to roll out hardware-based services.
Broadband; as well as driving innovations, it is creating new ways for individuals around the world to communicate, whether it’s via landline networks using fiber or DSL, or wirelessly over mobile broadband or WiFi. With this ubiquitous high speed access come increased expectations from consumers and businesses, who want an ever-increasing variety of new services and applications to further leverage these superfast broadband connections.
The challenge for providers is to leverage their networks to cost-effectively deliver additional offerings at the speed of broadband. However, networks and services traditionally have been highly dependent on purpose-built hardware, leaving providers to face long lead times for deployment and return on investment. For consumers used to the instant gratification of downloading apps from anywhere, at any time, the time it takes providers to launch new broadband services is no longer acceptable.
Enter software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV). SDN and NFV will be key components of tomorrow’s intelligent broadband networks, enabling service providers to quickly deliver new services—such as multiscreen video, parental controls, improved firewall, virus protections, and more—via software. In many ways these changes are analogous to how consumers are accustomed to quickly downloading new apps today. With SDN and NFV, service providers will be able to deploy software-based services and applications in their networks and make them available to customers in a matter of hours, days, or weeks, rather than the months or even years it takes to roll out hardware-based services.
Gaining full broadband network visibility with SDN
SDN was developed with the principal goals of making networks more automated and agile, whilst still being adaptable to broadband customers’ needs.
Without SDN, service providers must use disparate software tools to view various parts of their network, such as business connection, consumer DSL, mobile backhaul, or WiFi. Complicating it further, there are many additional layers to manage within each part of the network, including applications, router networks, optical networks, and each layer features equipment from different vendors with their own specialized software tools.
Broadband access networks pose additional challenges today because they often consist of multiple technologies. A tier1 operator could have any combination of ADSL, ADSL2+, VDSL2, EPON, GPON, or Ethernet FTTH in their network. Each technology comes with its own management interface, quality of service (QoS) concerns, and bandwidth constraints.
Because there are so many different types of equipment and software involved in a single network, any new service—such as IPTV for consumers—must be planned, tested, and deployed using a variety of tools to make sure the service can run properly across DSL or fibre to the customer premises, over the router layer, and over optical equipment, and can deliver the QoS required to watch a program. Delivering new broadband services to mobile customers requires much of the same type of complexity.
By introducing SDN into the network, service providers can have complete visibility into all aspects of their networks. This holistic approach enables them to see all the services running on their networks, all available resources, and the entire network infrastructure.
Speeding service delivery with NFV
SDN simplifies network management, and NFV enables service providers to make more services available quickly, and adapt those services to the needs of fixed and mobile broadband consumers as well as business customers.
For example, say a service provider wants to deploy a new parental control or IPTV service. Historically, to do this, the service provider would have to install specialized equipment, or update existing equipment, in each customer’s home.
This process can be long and laborious, taking up to a year and a half, because so many steps are involved. First, the service provider has to decide which service to offer, select the vendor for the new customer premises equipment, and test how the equipment functions and integrates with the network. Then the equipment must be installed in homes, and customer service trained on how to deal with installation and service problems. Only then can the new service be turned on to satisfy customer demand and start generating revenue for the service provider.
NFV will simplify and speed up this process by allowing providers to deploy their new services as software on a standard server for delivery over the broadband network. So, providers can upload the service onto servers, much like an app on a mobile phone, and inform consumers that the new offering is ready for purchase. If the servers and NFV control and orchestration software is already in place, the process of launching a new service can be much faster than it is with a hardware-based services (hours to weeks instead of months to years).
Another benefit of NFV is the ability to quickly and inexpensively trial a new service with a subset of customers. If they experience problems, the software can be updated then re-launched, without spending millions upfront to deploy the service.
With NFV, rolling out a new service simply depends on having enough servers and storage to execute the applications. Service providers will have the ability to offer a variety of new services, giving their customers more choice and selection of solutions to purchase.
The SDN and NFV revolution
SDN and NFV are truly the future of the advanced broadband service provider network. In our March 2014 SDN and NFV Strategies: Global Service Provider Survey, our respondents were major service providers who together, control 51% of the worldwide telecom CAPEX. We asked them about their plans for using SDN and NFV in their networks, and found that 72% plan to deploy NFV in their networks by the end of 2015.
2013 was the laboratory “proof of concept” year for SDN and NFV; we saw many service providers, manufacturers, and software providers exploring how complicated deployment would be, what they could do with the new technologies, what the cost would be, and how quickly they could achieve revenue with new software-based services.
In 2014, we expect to see a broader move from lab to field trials, with some early adopter service providers launching NFV-based services in parts of their networks. Many expect this year’s field trials to be successful, and those will be followed by commercial deployments in 2015 that will begin on a limited basis. Operators will put one or two use cases to test under real-world conditions in their live networks, simultaneously testing additional use cases in lab and field trials, as a precursor to future deployments. By 2016, we expect widespread commercial deployments, but still on a limited basis, as service providers move forward with their chosen NFV use cases and SDN network domains.
SDN and NFV in the Real World
Operators in Asia and around the world are excited about the potential of SDN and NFV to deliver new and exciting services to their residential and business broadband customers. Perhaps one of the most open and public operators using SDN and NFV today is Telefónica, which has showcased a field trial of virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) and consumer services in Brazil, including IPTV and firewall options. Telefónica plans to expand its trial of these services to Spain this year.
Telefónica chose vCPE for its first use case due to the complexity, length of time, and cost associated with deploying new broadband services in the past, because it required a new home CPE for each new service. It took them about a year and a half to decide what new service features to offer, then assess, select, and install the new CPE, and launch the service.
However, by having virtual network functions (VNFs)—in this case, IPTV and firewall—running on standard servers in the Telefónica network, the service is not delivered on the router or the TV set top box, but on servers in the network through the home CPE device. For NFV, Telefónica believes the CPE just needs to be a “connectivity point” (such as a simple DSL router with WiFi), rather than an intelligent network device that delivers the services. Telefónica has a history of designing its own CPE in conjunction with CPE manufacturers for its primary DSL gateways. Telefónica has many fiber and copper access technologies in its networks—ADSL, ADSL2+, VDSL2, and GPON—all of which use different CPE with different processors and residential gateway software stacks. To provision these disparate devices for the same service, Telefónica often had to upgrade the CPE firmware and RG software stacks for each type of CPE separately—a very time-consuming process.
With NFV, Telefónica can maintain virtual instantiations of every single endpoint, doing upgrades across the entire footprint of all homes and apartments while ensuring that each CPE gateway “re-trains” and is functioning properly. Then, deploying a new service is only a matter of choosing the software—such as a new firewall—testing it internally, and trialing it with customers. With its NFV software and servers in place, Telefónica said the time to roll out a new software-based service is hours, weeks, or at worst months.
There are many practical benefits of this approach. NFV increases the lifespan of the existing equipment at the customer premises, because it does not require replacement with every new service. NFV can help Telefónica with provisioning, management, and delivery of new services and applications—and bring in new revenue. The same principles apply to businesses connected by broadband, and Telefónica, Asian operators, and operators around the globe are working to deploy NFV.
A Bright Future Ahead for Broadband
There’s no question that changes are underway to make fixed and mobile broadband networks smarter and faster. To match the quickening speeds of broadband and the pace of our lives, SDN and NFV are beginning to deliver on the promise of quicker delivery of a broader range of services for consumers and businesses.
Though only a few lucky consumers (Telefónica customers in Brazil and Spain, and some in Asia) will be able to have new services delivered at the speed of broadband, we expect the changes brought about by SDN and NFV will spread worldwide next year.