In a world of ever more bursty traffic from mobile applications, along with the trials of replacing legacy equipment with new equipment to manage traffic more effectively, cloud-native networks present unfamiliar operational challenges in meeting the service quality expectations of customers.
Level 3’s experience reveals that the migration is gaining momentum as standardization and new equipment helps to cope with the challenges of managing a cloud-native network.
Chris McReynolds, vice president of cloud and data services for Level 3 Communications, discussed some of the challenges with migrating from proprietary equipment to policy-driven networks using SDN and NFV in Part II of this Q&A with Telco Transformation. (See Level 3's McReynolds on Building Cloud-Native Networks.)
Telco Transformation: Telecom operators are planning the integration of SDN controls with the legacy OSS/BSS systems. How much progress has been achieved in transitioning to policy-driven networks?
Chris McReynolds: With SDN controls, we have automated thousands of tasks, significantly increasing operational scale, shortening lead times, standardizing configurations and improving customer experience. Level 3's SDN orchestration and control system includes more than 75,000 network elements.
Level 3 Enhanced Management reporting affords greater transparency and visibility into the network than historically offered by service providers. Enterprises can see performance and utilization detail by network segment and by class of service, offering insights into latency, packet delivery, jitter and utilization for ease of network administration and cost-planning. Customer-defined thresholds for these aforementioned metrics, when breached, alert assigned users in the enterprise.
Level 3 Dynamic Capacity enables enterprises to provision bandwidth for three scenarios: ad hoc within seconds, scheduled in advance (one-time or recurring) and automatically to meet customer defined utilization thresholds -- implemented within seconds, without service disruption, nor the cumbersome paperwork or delays associated with traditional service changes.
In terms of results, Level 3's Dynamic Capacity customers are finding new use cases and creative ways to take advantage of the flexibility that Adaptive Network Control Solutions (ANCS) offers every day. Level 3 sees nearly 1,000 Dynamic Capacity events per month with current customers -- increasingly during business hours.
TT: What are the challenges and the extent of progress made in shifting from proprietary equipment to using commodity hardware and COTS as software is separated from hardware and network functions virtualized?
CM: Level 3’s CDN is where we have made the most progress with respect to leveraging white box servers to implement our service; more than 20,000 of them are running on our global network.
Progress in NFV, functions like routers, firewalls or WAN acceleration, is expected to gain momentum in 2017 as a single piece of equipment, a virtualized server, can manage multiple services such as routing, firewalls and WAN acceleration. In the past, the diversity of vendors made the task of inventorying and distributed deployment daunting. For a global network like ours, we need partners that take charge for specific geographies.
One of the challenges is that at higher-scale bandwidths, virtualized networks don't match the performance of a dedicated device. In data centers where bandwidth is high, dedicated equipment is the prevailing architecture, but WAN branch office locations, bandwidth will scale well with a single piece of equipment which virtualizes all network functions.
TT: What are the challenges of moving to SDN to configure network components for a variety of services using a diversity of virtual and physical resources?
CM: Level 3's challenge was to standardize the network and
its configurations inherited from multiple acquisitions. We continue to progress on our vision of "one" (one network, one systems ecosystem, one portfolio of services) with a common set of tools to manage and enable self-management (visibility and control) of network resources.
Another challenge was getting the hands off the network and changing the way we work, shifting the focus to exception-handling and a consultative approach.
We've had our SDN implementation in place for four years now and we can see the results as our more than 1,500 Dynamic Capacity customers continue to find new use cases and creative ways to take advantage of the network flexibility. Level 3 has automated tens of thousands of human tasks each month.
— Kishore Jethanandani, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation