|Issue:||Latin America 2015|
|Topic:||Service Provider considerations for SDN & NFV – The SI perspective|
|Title:||Competency Head/ Principal Consultant/ Principal Consultant|
Ninad Jadhav, Competency Head
Ninad Jadhav has over 21 years of experience in the IT industry, primarily in the communications domain.
Working with Tech Mahindra for the past 17+ years. Experience in competency development, solution and delivery management. Handled responsibilities in various roles for many system integration and development projects in the field of VoIP, AAA, Mobile Number Portability (MNP), Contact Center software, Intelligent Network (IN) Solutions etc. Extensive project / program management and people management experience.
Have lead initiatives in exploring trends in the communications industry and building Tech Mahindra capabilities in the identified focus areas as a part of its Center for Excellence (CoE) and Competency & Solutioning Unit (CSU) division.
Driving initiatives in emerging Technologies like SDN and NFV for competency & solution development.
Worked before with Center for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC) in the field of Natural language processing.
Naveen Sharma, Principal Consultant
Over 19 years of experience in the development, implementation and management of full life cycle telecom products & applications, and building capabilities in new focus areas. He has been involved in SDN, NFV, LTE, IPTV, CDN, OTT, Cloud Technologies, VOIP, Cable VOIP, telecom product engineering, CLASS 5 services development, OSS applications development for telecom equipment manufacturers and telecom service providers.
Currently, Naveen has been associated with the Network Services group in Tech Mahindra and has been focusing on the emerging technologies, viz. Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) and Software Defined Networks (SDN).
Raj Sahakari, Principal Consultant
In an industry career spanning 19+ years, Raj has been working on evolving telecom technologies and has been responsible for providing thought leadership and technology consulting. He has worked in areas involving capacity enhancement of wireless networks, multimedia convergence in communication systems, content processing and distribution, customer premise equipment, as well as IPv6 technologies.
Currently, Raj has been associated with the Network Services group in Tech Mahindra and has been focusing on the emerging technologies, viz. Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV) and Software Defined Networks (SDN).
With a significant increase in the software footprint in the Telco networks, new skill sets would be required from integrators for developing applications, integrating components, validating and testing services, as well as for managing Telco networks. System Integrators (SI) would add further value by providing software solutions and building software components that are (re)engineered to run in the virtualized environment. Thus the system integrator will play a vital role in fulfilling end-to-end requirements of SDN and NFV.
The Telecommunications industry is witnessing unprecedented growth and challenges. There has been a proliferation of ‘smart’ devices and this has resulted in a huge increase in data traffic across the world. Consumers are looking for services anytime and anywhere. Customer expectations are rising and enterprises are going digital and seeking services on-demand.
As such, Telcos are harnessing the power of convergence of network and IT capabilities. Software Defined Network (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) are two key transformational technology paradigms that will help service providers to evolve their static networks into dynamic and agile networks. How can these enable operators to meet their challenges and what is the role of the system integrator in making this happen?
SDN and NFV are expected to drive a sea change in the way networks are designed and operated, yet there are key aspects in which the SDN / NFV driven network environments differ from existing environments.
Legacy networks depend on a variety of proprietary hardware appliances. These in turn require considerations such as space and power. Launching new services then leads to an increase in costs from energy, capital investment, support for proprietary equipment, and these aspects make the maintenance of the networks difficult.
Similarly, the core routing and switching functions are implemented in vendor specific appliances. Vendors provide proprietary interfaces to configure and control their equipment. Configuring a network service requires configuring multiple network elements. Besides the need to configure the equipment through vendor specific proprietary interfaces, there is very little automation of these tasks. As a result the service provisioning cycles are long. Reducing the service provisioning cycles is a key concern for operators.
Operators have to adhere to agreed SLAs with their customer. This requires that they over-provision the network at times. Flexible and adequate provisioning on a need basis will not only help operators to manage precious network resources appropriately, but will also enable them to pass on the benefits to their customers.
SDN and NFV: the benefits
Network Functions Virtualization aims to leverage standard IT virtualization technology to consolidate many network equipment types onto industry-standard high volume servers, switches and storage, by virtualising the network functions. In essence, this means moving the network function requiring specialized hardware equipment to a software function executing on commoditized hardware. This is applicable to any data plane packet processing and control plane function in fixed and mobile network infrastructures. The benefits of NFV are:
• Reduced equipment costs and reduced power consumption through consolidating equipment and exploiting the economies of scale of the IT industry.
• Single platform can support multi-version network appliances and provide multi-tenancy, thus allowing network operators to share resources across services and across different customer bases.
• Faster time to market by minimizing the typical innovation cycle.
• Rapid introduction, scale up and scale down of services
Software Defined Network (SDN) is a new approach to networking that makes the data network more flexible, easier to manage, operate, and can respond better to application demand and network conditions.
SDN offers enterprises, carriers and cloud service providers, automated & programmable control and provisioning that ensures network resources are optimally deployed; makes it much easier to support multi-tenancy; reduces both CapEx and OpEx; and increases service velocity and value.
Although there is a great deal of apprehension in the service provider community, some operators are moving from proof of concept (PoC) towards actual implementations. Early deployment of SDN is expected in the data centres (DC) of cloud service providers and large enterprises. Its adoption in DC, which is likely to begin with traffic flow management, optimization and visualization solutions, will gradually move into carrier networks.
With NFV, operators are likely to virtualise the enterprise customer premise equipments (vCPE) and the LTE core components (vEPC) in the initial phases and later take on more complex functions such as virtualising the mobile base station (vRAN).
Challenges and 0pportunities
Service providers are still assessing the potential impact and benefits of SDN and NFV. Operators are typically planning SDN / NFV adoption over a 5-10 year horizon and are currently closely working with vendors in lab trials and proofs of concept. This is driven by the fact that operators have running contracts with vendors and have invested heavily in equipment already. They therefore need an optimized approach to protect these investments and at the same time migrate to the SDN / NFV world.
Operators are also in the process of consolidating their existing OSS systems, primarily to reduce the complexity that currently exists on account of multiple vendor solutions. The rationalization exercise will help the OSS environment and processes and create grounds for a platform which would facilitate automation, and enable faster provisioning, fulfillment and assurance cycles.
These challenges open up new opportunities, for the eco-system, such as:
• Certification of individual vendor components as well as end-to-end validation of services to ensure service reliability and continuity.
• Organizations with a strong software background stand to gain as they can quickly adapt by re-training their staff.
• Service providers would require consulting services to migrate to an SDN / NFV environment and evolve operations appropriately.
• Operators are looking towards system integrators to take end-to-end ownership of the new infrastructure and to ensure that SLAs are met.
SDN and NFV technologies are transforming the vendor landscape too. Given the strong operator drive, vendors need to re-position themselves from a software product perspective. Operators believe that enabling their proprietary software to run on industry standard hardware in a standardized way may be a significant opportunity for existing vendors because their networking know-how is where the real value lies. Some major equipment vendors are already moving in this direction by offering virtualized versions of their products.
Operators want to protect their existing network investments and would like to take an approach which provides the benefits of SDN and NFV without taking a disruptive approach. Some vendors are responding with solutions which help prepare overlay paths over existing networks and still provide the required control. Others are adopting a proprietary approach to control their gear. Vendors are also establishing SDN / NFV platforms in collaboration with their partners and providing an environment for end-to-end service deployment.
The role of system integrators
As service providers adopt SDN and NFV technologies, a hybrid scenario begins to emerge. Networks would become an interplay of traditional gear along with the new virtualized infrastructure. Parts of the network would be controlled via SDN controllers and would co-exist with the non-SDN part of the network. Similarly, existing OSS systems would have to be rationalized to adapt to the emerging SDN / NFV requirements of orchestration as well as quicker assurance and fulfillment cycles. Service providers would need to manage a hybrid network and IT environment while ensuring that their existing services are unaffected.
Telco network and IT systems would be comprised of equipment, products and platforms from a number of vendors, each with different product maturities and flavors. Service providers may also adopt open solutions in certain pieces of the overall architecture. This would require integration between components from multiple vendors, associated validation & verification, E2E service realization and service level assurances (SLAs). This creates an opportunity for system integrators.
Since SDN and& NFV warrant changes to network infrastructure, software architecture, network control, management processes and associated platforms and tools, it becomes imperative to understand how services would behave. The foreseen benefits on Capex and Opex need substantiation via concrete savings and operational efficiencies. Standards need to evolve quickly and individual vendor components need to be certified for compliance and inter-working. The network architecture and management systems need to be validated for performance, reliability, resiliency, security, and overall orchestration. SLA guarantees need to be respected amidst this migration and transformation.
Service providers will bank on system integrators to play a major part in this transformation journey. For this, system integrators need to get involved early in service provider trials and PoCs. This would help them get a good understanding of vendor products and platforms, and also facilitate back-to-back relationships with vendors.
With a significant increase in the software footprint in the Telco networks, new skill sets would be required from integrators for developing applications, integrating components, validating and testing services, as well as for managing Telco networks. System Integrators would add further value by providing software solutions and building software components that are (re)engineered to run in the virtualized environment. Thus the system integrator will play a vital role in fulfilling end-to-end requirements of SDN and NFV.
SDN and NFV are causing a paradigm shift in the way in which modern networks & data centers will operate.However, the environment needs to be cloudified, automated and orchestrated, so that the benefits of a cloud service environment are achieved.
SDN and NFV standards need to evolve quickly to alleviate the issues of integrating multiple virtual appliances from different vendors, interoperability and certification. A migratory path needs to be chalked out to provide the assurance of realizing perceived benefits; conducting PoCs and trials will go a long way in preparing the ground for adoption of SDN / NFV.