The Role of' 'Softwareization' in Carrier Networks

By: Mattias Fridstrom

In the cloud, the ‘softwareization’ of everything has already arrived, delivering a variety of benefits via innovative applications that created entirely new business models and revenue streams. When it comes to the network outside the data center, however, many functions are still performed manually—especially in long haul backbone environments. The potential for network transformation via the softwareization of currently manual processes offers tangible, operational benefits for backbone providers to enhance operational efficiencies and more nimbly serve clients’ needs while improving profitability. How can carriers use SDN and automation techniques to boost efficiency, improve existing services and enable new services such as bandwidth on demand? This article will explore the current state of SDN and what’s coming from softwareization in carrier networks.

Cloud and Data Center Interconnect Drives Growth, Innovation

According to excerpts from the most recent Cisco Global Cloud Index, 2016–2021, hyperscale data centers will represent 53 percent of all installed data center servers by 2021, and traffic within hyperscale data centers will quadruple, accounting for 55 percent of total traffic within all data centers by 2021. When it comes to non-hyperscale global data center traffic, annual global data center IP traffic will grow threefold from 2016 to 2021, growing at a CAGR of 25 percent.

While the networking market has seen tremendous expansion and innovation over the past two decades, in many ways connectivity remains a physical asset that requires manual resources to install, provision and manage. However, softwareization changes the way broadband services are sold and consumed. Network transformation via softwareization including (but not limited to) SDN promises to bring cloud-like agility to the network while reducing CAPEX and OPEX for operators and clients alike—and it has the potential to disrupt business models and corporate behavior in the same way the cloud has for other industries.

SD-WAN Transforms Public Internet into Private Backbone for Hybrid Cloud

The digitalization of business and its move towards the cloud have radically changed the telecom landscape, especially for enterprise services. Previously, large or globally dispersed enterprises connected their branch offices, data centers and campuses via dedicated MPLS services and hosted their applications in-house. While MPLS was promoted to be reliable and secure, these connections often involved costly, multi-year contracts and provided little flexibility if a firm needed to add new sites or upgrade its services, because MPLS connections can take months to provision. 

Now, many enterprises use a hybrid of third-party cloud-based services and self-hosted apps in their own data centers. Traditional WAN services such as MPLS are not designed for directly connecting an enterprise office to cloud-powered SaaS applications such as Office 365 or at the edge. However, these firms still require the reliability and security provided by traditional WANs to host their own data center applications. So how can businesses maintain critical application performance across both environments while still containing costs?


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