The Role of' 'Softwareization' in Carrier Networks

Automation is a critical element because it can eliminate costly human errors and their impact on the network and doing anything manually for the hyperscalers can be very challenging

Now that SDN has matured, it has proven security and other features to reliably deliver QoS, enabling businesses to create reliable software-defined networks to link their hybrid cloud and data center environments. SDN’s more recent progeny SD-WAN, which combines SDN and NFV, enables an optimized combination of MPLS and public Internet characteristics while delivering on the promise of reduced CAPEX and OPEX for carriers and customers alike. It creates hybrid networks to integrate broadband or other network services into the corporate WAN, not only handling general business workloads and traffic but also maintaining the performance and security of real-time and security-sensitive applications.

According to a recent Enterprise Management Associates’ (EMA) research report, “Wide-Area Network Transformation: How Enterprises Succeed with Software-Defined WAN,” 87 percent of distributed enterprises are increasing their use of the Internet as a primary WAN connectivity option, and 97 percent of them are engaged with SD-WAN.

As MPLS contracts expire, more and more enterprises are asking for SD-WAN services in their RFPs. SD-WAN now enables enterprises to connect hybrid clouds, branch offices and data centers at lower costs over long distances using the public Internet instead. While this doesn’t signal the death of MPLS, it does mean enterprises will limit its use to environments that specifically require it, and Internet backbone traffic will increase.

Data Drives Automation of Manual Processes

Operators have unique access to lots of information and data about the network and services that, if properly analyzed, can lead to better business and network planning decisions, allowing carriers to reduce costs and increase revenues from existing infrastructure. Softwareization makes network data accessible to other applications—enabling new capabilities and services—and has the potential to transforms the data so it is more understandable, delivering greater insights to network operators.

Automation is a critical element because it can eliminate costly human errors and their impact on the network. It performs tasks faster and saves time and money by enabling personnel to focus on more strategic initiatives instead of day-to-day operations. It also enables the creation of innovative new services and can shorten time-to-service and therefore increase revenues. We are just beginning to see the potential increases in operational efficiency that can be driven by automation. Some examples include automated self-discovery, self-configuration and zero-touch provisioning of networks—and there are a lot of other areas that automation can improve. 

Consider billing, for example. As a manual process, billing requires a lot of human resources to calculate how much customers should pay based on their traffic usage. Once automated, it has the potential to free these people to work on more value-added tasks. The need for increased automation in fault management and prevention is another area that will be revolutionized by softwareization. In addition, enhanced network control automation and virtualization will help customers in their digital journey.

In another example, automation of network configuration services removes the manual performance assessments of optical wavelengthsa critical network performance management task. Automating fiber monitoring across the network can greatly benefit carriers, delivering access to trend analysis that can help with planning and optimization and enabling the greatest possible use of the maximum available spectrum.

Automation is even more important when it comes to serving cloud and data center operators at scale. Doing anything manually for the hyperscalers can be very challenging. Software-based automation will improve existing services and enable new services such as bandwidth on demand, allowing customers to control how they distribute their bandwidth while meeting the need for scalable, on-demand and self-service applications.

Carriers have long been squeezed between the demand for ever-increasing bandwidth and customers’ desire to have it at a much lower cost. However, simply driving down costs is not automation’s only benefit. Carriers need to leverage it to make them more attractive to do business with by making optimal use of data and creating new services and business models to grow the top line.


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