A key potential benefit of software-defined networks is automating systems internally and between carriers, according John Isch, Orange Business Services' practice director for network and voice.
SDNs are evolving rapidly. The ultimate goal of giving customers what they want sounds simple. It's not. Here in Part I of this Q&A, Isch said that in some cases customers are not yet sure precisely what this is. The task doesn't get much easier once customers decide on their end goals, since these differ greatly. Thus the long-term goal is to develop SDN standards that are flexible and capable of automating functions across internal and third-party networks.
In Part II, Isch talks about how SDN varies across its home country of France and other countries that it serves.
Telco Transformation: Please give me the overview of Orange Business Services and SDN.
John Isch: Orange France runs a domestic network, and is a sister company of Orange Business Services. We share engineering resources. There was an SDN/NFV deployment done on the French network four years ago, I believe, and we used that as experience to expand our SDN/NFV platform and look at what we wanted to do internationally.
We actually used a completely different architecture when we went international. There was a brief moment when we had to decide if we were going to expand what we did in France internationally or start over again in the international market. We decided on the latter. Advancements had been made, and we relooked at the industry and how things had developed.
We now have services deployed in the network for SDN/NFV that we're calling Easy Go Network. It's basically using our SDN orchestration platform to deploy VNFs. Right now, our first deployments are POP-based VNFs. That's our first offer in the market that we've released so far. (See Orange Business Services Debuts First NaaS VNF.)
TT: When you say an NFV POP, are you talking about a local node that's quarterbacking the VNFs for a particular entity connected to that node?
JI: We call them IP service nodes around the world. We're enabling those IP service nodes with VMs to allow for us to host various VNFs for customers. The Easy Go Network option here is to deploy VNFs that exist within those POPs. The SDN orchestration platform is also being used to deploy VNFs to the edge using universal CPE.
As I discussed before, the Easy Go Network option here, or feature, is going to deploy VNFs that exist within those POPs, but the SDN orchestration platform is also being used to deploy VNFs to the edge using universal CPE. I think when you look at SDN, there are really three different places that it comes.
When you look at a POP-based architecture, we have plenty of customers for whom it makes a lot of sense to have firewall resources, as an example, in a POP. But there are a lot of our customers who say, "That's not appropriate for my security infrastructure. I need to have them reside either locally or in a data center," or something like that. The important thing about SDN is what does it delivers for the customer. That's externally focused.
TT: How important is automation internally?
JI: Automating our entire infrastructure is equally important internally. When you look at how SDN is implemented within our infrastructure, it's not just, "Hey, how do we deliver this firewall to this customer?" We need to integrate all of our legacy systems into the SDN orchestration platform in order for it to take effect and to work down the road. We can't have two architectures. We can't have a database of customer connections and then an SDN orchestration platform that's disconnected from that. It all has to work together. I think when you look at it from an internal perspective, the really important thing is that this is providing automation to systems that historically have not been very automated within the carrier environment.
Of course, I work for Orange, but every carrier has existed outside of automation and digitization up until now. An SDN really allows us to drive all those things together and automate our product development, automate our product delivery, automate billing and everything else that goes with it. It's really far reaching in the industry beyond just what we deliver to customers. However, what we deliver to customers, that's what pays the bills. That's the most important thing.
TT: Where is your customer base right now?
JI: I meet with a lot of customers, and the amazing thing is that there is no one architecture that fits all. I think from a telecom perspective, that would be fantastic. It would save us a lot of development if we could just say, "Okay, we're developing the ultimate customer environment," and every customer is going to sign on for it. The reality is that every customer I meet has different design requirements that are based sometimes simply on the question: "Am I using a data center, am I going to the cloud?" That's a very big decision point that's happening right now. I have some customers who say, "I'm cloud first. Everything has to exist in the cloud unless it can't, and then it will be in my data center."
The other major consideration is security policy. There's no way as a carrier or any external force, any external person could walk into customer and say, "Okay, I know what your security requirements are. I'm going to show you how to best do security." Those are tightly held, and for good reason. There are people who are responsible for that in every company, and they have to design the architecture that makes the most sense for them. In some cases, a VNF-based firewall that sits in a POP makes perfect sense for them. But in other customer cases, that will never fly.
— Carl Weinschenk, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation