The devil of migration to cloud-native networks is in the details of its strategy and operations complexity. On-demand services are inexorably driving traditional networks, but the pace of migration depends on the decisions emerging networks can make on billing, management tools, cybersecurity and bandwidth management.
In Part 1 of this Q&A, Chris McReynolds, vice president of cloud and data services for Level 3 Communications, spoke to Telco Transformation about how service providers are transitioning to cloud-native networks.
Telco Transformation: Telecom networks wrestle with conflicting demands of flexibility in allocation of resources and their manageability in a cloud-native environment. What is the low-hanging fruit that can be reaped with minimal disturbance to legacy proprietary networks and OSS/BSS management systems in the transition to cloud-native networks?
Chris McReynolds: Fundamentally, operators can support larger scale with higher levels of simplicity, speed, and flexibility as they move to the cloud. These benefits afford operators new opportunities to rethink the product and support models. This machine-driven a la carte model will make significant demands on IT development and operations teams. Level 3 is actively pursuing a modern view of BSS and OSS systems to gain an edge by moving at cloud speeds. There are three key areas where legacy BSS/OSS systems fall short:
- Legacy systems are built on historical services sold and are largely point-to-point. Updating those systems to support more cloud-based services which will be delivered on-demand leveraging virtualized infrastructure will be a challenge
- Humans have always played a key role from quoting a service, to entering and order, to designing the service to monitoring and managing the service. All of these functions have been tethered to a monolithic process and workflow. Moving this to an API-driven self-serve model will involve a lot of work to bridge the traditional systems and break down the silos and manual handoffs that exist today.
- Performance reporting needs to be in real time and granular to the application layer so that degradation and anomalies are detected before impact to the customer. Legacy models, on the other hand, are primarily built on polling and fault.
In the customer-defined networking model, customers are paying per use for cloud -- as well as physical and virtual network resources. Legacy-fixed multi-year terms no longer appeal to customers.
TT: The demands on service provision is evolving as markets, such as streaming media, on-demand services and the Internet of Things, enter a phase of rapid growth. Can telecom operators maintain service quality?
CM: Progress will be made, but it won’t be for everything that business wants to purchase -- as it is difficult for traditional telecom providers to manage all of this change in services consumption.
Internet bandwidth, CDN capabilities and security will be central to serving the emerging demand. For example, intelligent CDN serves the need for burstable Internet bandwidth by optimizing the hosting and delivery of streaming media. As devices proliferate, and sensitive personal and machine information are aggregated over many different types of connections, security technologies will need to evolve to leverage threat intelligence and corrective actions in real time.
TT: What kind of AI methods have proven to be viable for management of cloud-native networks or have the promise to be so in complex heterogeneous networks with shifting workloads?
CM: Machine learning is potentially the most significant innovation in cyber security to detect evolving attacks. Level 3 has unparalleled visibility into the threat landscape with one of the world’s largest Internet backbone networks together with our CDN and voice solutions. We analyze vast volumes of network data including DNS, network telemetry and CDN, to identify active threats on our network, collecting information on more than 48 billion events a day with machine learning as one of the primary methods.
Our machine learning infrastructure “looks” for unauthorized behavior in the network and detects emerging attacks unknown to the industry. Additionally, we uncover potentially compromised machines by comparing network data with patterns in industry reputation data, aggregated from data collected by security companies from their customers -- previous history of malicious behavior such as phishing attacks, malware attacks, ransomware, DDOS attacks, etc.
Level 3 feeds this data into the machine learning algorithms to improve their ability to spot lurking threats. Moreover, Level 3 traps bad actors by luring them to dedicated machines with data that appears to be the valuable information they seek (honey pot and honey net infrastructure), which helps us to capture their footprints.
TT: How is your company leveraging the cloud for enterprise customers?
CM: Level 3 enables enterprises to connect and migrate to the cloud securely. Our global connectivity to the key cloud service providers (Azure, Google, AWS, etc.), 500 plus global datacenters connected via fiber, and Ethernet SDN capabilities, makes it easy to move from legacy application hosting to hybrid cloud.
— Kishore Jethanandani, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation