Solving Transport Complexity

By: Dean Campbell, Brandon Peyton

Thirty-five years after it first came to life, today’s Internet comprises thousands of public and private networks, across which more than 4.7 zettabytes of IP traffic have flowed globally, according to the Cisco Visual Networking Index. To put that figure into perspective, that traffic is equal to all the movies ever produced crossing the world’s IP networks in less than a minute.

The Cisco report projects that by 2022, 60 percent of the global population, or 4.8 billion people, will be Internet users, up from 3.4 billion just two years ago. Moreover, 28 billion devices and connections will be online, with video making up more than 80 percent of all IP traffic. In North America alone, network traffic will grow threefold, at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21 percent, or 108 exabytes per month.

Because the size and complexity of the Internet continues to grow in ways that many could not have imagined even a decade ago, service providers are now focused on transforming their networks to better manage and route traffic, while simultaneously delivering premium experiences. The networks of today are vastly different than the ones we became accustomed to during the first decade of the 21st century.

Managing traditional networks has become increasingly challenging as the amount of hardware has grown. Compounded by the complexity of virtualization and the cloud, the enormous surge in traffic generated by the growing number of connected devices, and the coming of 5G, hands-on network management has become a nearly insurmountable task.

5G will have significant impact on how we build, manage, and sell services in the near future. With the additional software capability FirstLight has implemented, it now has enhanced visibility to unified inventory, services fidelity, and automated analysis and—in combination with their best-in-class transport network—the company is positioned to be among the best prepared to support 5G as well as the other compliance and technology initiatives of its clients.

More on that later, but first let’s take a look at the programmable network.

Programmable Networking: A Primer

Simply defined, a programmable network is one in which the behavior of network devices and flow control is handled by software that operates independently from network hardware. A truly programmable network will allow a network engineer to reprogram network infrastructure rather than having to rebuild it manually.

Programmable networking has several benefits over traditional networking, including the ability for applications to maintain information about device capabilities and the ability for networks to respond to application status and resource requirements. Most notably, a programmable network enables better allocation of bandwidth and resources, improves operational flexibility, and enhances transparency. Critical for industries that face information security compliance regulations, such as financial services, healthcare, education, and government, network programmability supports emerging privacy and security technologies.

Where SDN Fits into Programmable Networking

Network programmability is central to software-defined networking (SDN). SDN decouples network controls from hardware and allows the network to be managed by a much more flexible software layer. SDN changes the face of network automation by providing a playbook of open standards and application programming interfaces (APIs).

Before the advent of SDN, network monitoring, analytics, provisioning, and automation would have been achieved by network operators and service providers deploying costly customized development initiatives, each aimed at a specific network component. By enabling network equipment and software to integrate closely together, thus mitigating the development challenges that previously obstructed automation and analysis, SDN enables intelligent network automation and empowers service providers to realize the value associated with it.


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