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Managing and Assuring Hybrid Networks: Navigating the Path to a Virtual World

By: Michaela Radman

As recent as five years ago, Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) solutions were looked at as the future of networking, viewed as a more efficient, streamlined, and cost-effective way to operate global networks, with the promise of huge cost savings. It has taken some time, but SDN and NFV solutions are no longer anticipated network technologies of the distant future, and are projected for major growth in the next few years.

SDN Market Projection: Research and Markets anticipates that the global SDN market will expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 53.13 percent, from a U.S. $3.270 billion industry in 2016 to a U.S. $42.157 billion industry by 2021.

NFV Market Projection: Technavio predicts that the global NFV market will grow by a CAGR of 33 percent by 2020.

Both of these virtualized network solutions are currently being deployed across global networks, but the road to solely virtualized networks could still be a half-decade away.

Benefits of Shifting to Virtual Networks

Enter the hybrid network solution, which fuses legacy networks (physical infrastructure with manual processes) with SDN and NFV (virtual networking with automated processes) solutions to provide a blended network that will serve as a bridge to the eventual completely virtual network solutions that have been prophesied over the last number of years.  

Operators need not wait for the days of completely virtual networks to experience the benefits that virtual components can bring to their networks.

Increased Network Reliability

Having a virtual network segment allows operators to automate mission-critical network operations, which boosts network reliability because automation reduces the possibility of human error. As long as automated processes are configured with the right settings, tested and maintained, hybrid networks will perform with higher reliability rates than legacy-only networks.  

Increased Network Efficiency

This benefit ties in with reliability, as the more reliable your network is, the better the overall network efficiency will be. Hybrid networks allow certain functions to operate under automation which in turn lessens the possibility of human error and eliminates the manual processes associated with legacy networks.

Automation processes can be configured to identify issues within the network and immediately begin mitigation procedures, which vastly reduces time to resolution metrics and yields increased customer satisfaction. If an issue were to arise in a legacy network, the network operator would have to be notified of or identify the network issue and then manually mobilize and communicate with its mitigation team members to resolve the problem via manpower efforts. These manual mitigation processes can take anywhere from hours to days to complete, depending on the complexity of the issue, meaning much more down-time and unhappy end-users for legacy operators.  

Predictive Capabilities

Closed loop automation can predict and prevent faults within the network, which is something that is not possible to do with legacy-based networks. As mentioned, not only can closed-loop automation predict issues, it can immediately act upon them, vastly reducing issue mitigation time and boosting network uptime. Having a virtual component to your network can allow you to “guarantee” service for customers, which a completely legacy-based solution cannot truly do.

Cost Reduction

All of the above benefits factor into reduced network operations costs, but there is also a hardware component to cost reduction in the hybrid model. Virtualization is a powerful technology of scale that allows for the enhancement of storage, bandwidth configurations, etc. without major investment in additional physical hardware because it operates in a cloud environment. For example, companies that are operating under the hybrid network model may only need 4 servers to duplicate the efforts that their legacy-only counterparts would need 100 servers to complete. 



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