Friday, 26 April 2019

How SDN and NFV could close the geographic gap for global enterprise

By Chris Kelly, Total Telecom
Monday 14 January 19

SSE Enterprise Telecoms explores the role of new network technologies in the industry today

It’s rare to find a modern enterprise that doesn’t deliver their services or content around the world seamlessly meaning demand for connectivity to support this activity is growing significantly. A few things that hold organisations back are the old-fashioned network infrastructures still being used by many enterprises. Older network architectures can be unwieldy and expensive to maintain and deploy. Should something go wrong, problem-solving and debugging can be tricky, meaning downtime can be long-lasting and performance compromised. Network managers at enterprise companies are looking for more agility and a greater ability to manage services from a centralised control system…

It’s rare to find a modern enterprise that doesn’t deliver their services or content around the world seamlessly meaning demand for connectivity to support this activity is growing significantly. A few things that hold organisations back are the old-fashioned network infrastructures still being used by many enterprises.

Older network architectures can be unwieldy and expensive to maintain and deploy. Should something go wrong, problem-solving and debugging can be tricky, meaning downtime can be long-lasting and performance compromised. Network managers at enterprise companies are looking for more agility and a greater ability to manage services from a centralised control system. 

 

The role of new network technologies

Fortunately, new options are emerging. Software Defined Networking (SDN) can offer customers the ability to elegantly manipulate their network – whether public or private – from a remote-control plane. It can also improve security and help businesses make hardware savings. Likewise, Network Function Virtualisation (NFV), an architecture which can help businesses separate network functions from the dedicated hardware devices they’ve traditionally run on. Enterprise network managers are empowered to turn up many different services at the edge of the network and cloud-native environments. However, it’s worth noting that without streamlined processes and robust templates around SDN, customers still stand to suffer the perennial telecoms challenge of GIGO (Garbage In – Garbage Out).   

SDN technology, such as Software-Defined Wide Area Networks (SD-WAN), is a more tangible current focus for businesses. For global companies, or those with ambitions for growth across various geographies, flexible IT platforms are a must. SD-WAN can meet this need, whether it’s for expansion or for merging existing IT systems and networks as part of an acquisition. If deployed correctly, SD-WAN can significantly enhance network capability, in addition to providing a network with a higher capacity for self-optimisation, due to its ability to re-route traffic over multiple network resources.

However, there’s still a great deal of work to be done to get the most out of this technology. Ultimately, it’s up to the telecommunications industry and its partners to drive this innovation effectively for businesses. Particularly since any new network build – either terrestrial or subsea – should be deployed with an SDN-ready infrastructure in mind. 

 

SDN for global communications

The industry should be striving to predict exactly how its customers will be using SDN, and working to fulfil this. For example, SSE Enterprise Telecoms knows that, following the growth of SD-WAN in America, many European business’ now have SD-WAN projects underway – in no small part motivated by the continuing shift to cloud computing and cloud-based technologies. SDN can support this, but only with the right global infrastructure in place. 

When it comes to cloud computing, hyper scalers like AWS, Microsoft and Google only work for certain applications – and their viability can be restricted by security, geographic limitations, and ultra-low latency applications. This is just one example of the clear opportunity for telcos and experts from the subsea cable industry to work together to help global businesses meet these challenges. In time, SDN capability could be placed within the core network of submarine cables, again giving customers more agility by allowing them to control their traffic needs globally. This would solve some of the issues hyper scalers face and provide edge computing capabilities that are much closer to customers and their networks. 

 

The future of network architecture and improving business performance

Over the next few years, the future of network architectures and capabilities will be significantly shaped by telcos, in which enterprises need to be prepared to make the most of the new technologies. More importantly, there are great opportunities for the telcos and subsea cable experts to collaborate in helping shape the future of connectivity. What is certain is that only until the documentation and templating of these new network structures has been addressed, and ownership of the physical layer has been clearly established can SDN become the reality that’s been predicted. Whilst there is still much area of growth, this will have a significant and positive impact on enterprises across the globe – providing, of course, that all of the relevant industry players can work together to develop it. 

 
Conrad Mallon, Chief Network Architect, SSE Enterprise Telecoms will be speaking at this year's Submarine Networks EMEA 2019 event in London. Conrad will be taking part in the Day 1, Technical Track Panel titled ‘Revolutionising network design and operations with SDN & NFV’. CLICK HERE for a full agenda and details of how you can be involved. 

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