One of the trends of software-driven networks is the evolution away from traditional private networks to leveraging the public Internet for enterprise connectivity, but with that move comes the need for better security, according to Level 3 Communications CTO Andrew Dugan.
Dugan outlined some industry trends during a Telco Transformation webinar on SDN last month that also featured Amy Wheelus, vice president of cloud and D2 platform integration, AT&T. (See AT&T's Wheelus: Automation Key for Speed, Efficiency.)
"Enterprises are looking for ways to leverage low-cost broadband services," Dugan said on the webinar. "One example is to offload some of that Internet-based growth onto lower cost bandwidth. In some cases, some of our customers are exclusively using low-cost Internet broadband services for connectivity of their remote locations. Retail is one type of business where we see that."
Aside of the constant need for more bandwidth, Dugan said the move to public Internet-based services was also being driven by enterprises' digitalization efforts. Businesses are relying on the public Internet to access corporate applications, connect their employees while they travel or work from home, and for more cloud-based software-as-a-service applications.
Enterprises are also using the public Internet in tandem with their SD-WAN services, which gives them more flexibility in terms of how they configure their networks with software while adding new features such as performance-based routing. Dugan said that pairing SD-WAN with NFV would be the basis in which future enterprise network solutions would be built.
While there are many advantages for enterprises using the public Internet, security becomes a bigger concern.
"As enterprises use the Internet for more of their networking needs, it becomes even more critical to protect themselves against that increased surface of exposure that they have to the threats that are on the public Internet," Dugan said.
Dugan mentioned distributed denial of service attacks and malware as two types of threats that enterprises should be mindful of.
Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) has been working on building more threat intelligence into its capabilities while also offering threat feeds to its customers to be able to detect patterns of "bad behavior" prior to notifying them that their networks are being attacked or compromised by malware.
"To help deal with those threats, it's important to think about how security bundles into these communication services that are going to be enabled by SDN and NFV, so things like DDOS services are going to be important," he said.
Dugan also cited data analytics as a big trend. By using SDN control systems, Level 3 is able to provide increased visibility into networks while also collecting more information on them for their customers.
"These networks are under direct control of these control systems," Dugan said. "You can query them, extract more information and bring all of that into analytics platforms to help inform your customers about how services are functioning. You can present that information to your customers on portals and that gives them visibility into their network performance."
Another trend cited by Dugan was the move away from primarily using private data centers to using public clouds and public data centers. The move to the cloud is allowing companies such as Level 3 to give customers services and bandwidth on demand, as well as the ability to move workloads around. But Dugan cautioned that the cloud was also conditioning customers to think that all of their services could be turned up on demand versus the two or three months that it has traditionally taken to activate telecom services.
"Normal telecom services aren't going to work in this new cloud world," he said. "We need to recognize that, and evolve our control systems, our network and our services to meet that need, because if we're not able to meet the agility that our customers are demanding, they'll go someplace else. That applies to both turning up new services, as well as adjusting configuration of existing services that they have on the network.
"SDN control systems, at least from our perspective, are the key to being able to provide that automated control, both for automated provisioning, and turning control of those services over to our customers. That evolution to the cloud is one of the big trends we see."
CenturyLink's $34 billion deal to buy Level 3 Communications is expected to close any day now.
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation