A key to the future of SDN is interoperability, both internally and between carriers’ networks. Orange Business Services is working with the Metro Ethernet Forum and TM Forum to foster this sort of standardization, according to John Isch, practice director for network and voice.
Standardization is vital as SDN evolution accelerates. The SDN architecture Orange deployed two years ago in France was far different than what the company now is deploying on networks internationally, according to Isch. That sort of change requires deep and well-designed standardization and automation tools. This is Part II of the Q&A with Isch. In Part I he spoke about how SDN was driving automation. (See Orange's Isch: SDN Drives Automation.)
Telco Transformation: What exactly was the difference between SDN assets you have outside of France and what you have in France?
John Isch: It was both. Architecture and vendor selection were different when we got outside of France. I think it just came down to how the products had evolved over the year to two years between when we deployed in France and when we were ready to deploy internationally. The architectures have changed. As you know, SDN is still in its infancy. You see a lot of work around MEF and a lot of RESTful APIs. There's a lot that is still in the works. You can say, "Okay, I'm going to stick with a single provider for all my architecture, or I'm going to do a modularized architecture." I think we decided that the latter was a better way to go as long as we stick within the OpenStack environment.
In the international market, Ciena Blue Planet is the orchestration platform that we're using. We find it very modular. It gives us the ability to be flexible with what we're implementing. Again, the key point of all this is that none of our customers expect that we're walking in with a specific vendor's VNFs. That would be extremely difficult to sell, to walk into a customer and say, "You can’t have any firewalls on this except this one." Every customer has different requirements, and we need to be able to say, "Okay, we've got a variety of firewalls."
We keep talking about firewalls. There's a lot of other VNFs. There are a lot of different firewall VNFs, and some customers have done their own vetting or they want different elements than any one particular vendor could deliver. We've got to be flexible with that, and we have to have the architecture that allows for that flexibility. That's what we're aiming for.
TT: At end of February Orange made an announcement that you're working with Colt, AT&T and others within the landscape of MEF and TM Forum on APIs. Could you tell me a little bit about that? (See Colt, AT&T, Orange Partner on Orchestrated Services.)
JI: The program started in December 2016 and completes December of this year. By the end of this year, we'll have published the results. Basically, it's about interoperability at the wholesale level. What we want to do is be able to use SDN architectures across various providers. The problem we have right now with SDN is that it's all well and good as long as I stick within the Orange Business Services Network. We use a lot of other providers to provide last mile connectivity to our customer premises as well as to cloud service providers. The dream of SDN, if we're going to orchestrate end-to-end, we need ways to interoperate between not only the carriers but also the cloud service providers that are connecting to our customers. We're looking to standardize and automate interoperability management of those connectivity products. That's what we're working on.
It includes service qualification and ordering. If I have a customer who wants connectivity in a given country or a given city, it's about being able to use automation and SDN to validate that connectivity across domains and then get into provisioning and ordering using those same APIs across the environment. It becomes an end-to-end environment. The thing I hear a lot about is the idea of bandwidth on demand. I think the reason I hear a lot about this is because it's the simplest to conceptualize.
TT: It sounds like all the carriers and service providers have skin in the game.
JI: You are talking to John Isch, who's part of Orange Business Services and I work in a global environment, so all of my concerns are global in nature. But there are no global carriers that can provision an end-to-end from point A in the United States to point B in Germany [or] France, and Tokyo, and everywhere in between, without using a last mile carrier to provision those.
If I'm using a last mile provider to provision a service like bandwidth on demand, I need the ability to influence the configuration of that last mile environment. This initiative will help us set the parameters under which we can all cooperate to provide those services.
TT: Are you making progress?
JI: Absolutely. They're looking at two different kinds of proposals, one for extensible APIs that follow RESTful patterns, that's a TMF API. Then API structure that covers standard service product features, and this is an MEF guideline. Then there's a flexibility that has the same API function structure, supports different kinds of services, and then API functions that support different operations like ordering, start, changes, cancels and lifecycle status. I don't think it's ever going to be complete, but it's a start to getting that interoperability in place. Again, we'll publish by the end of this year, and then it's a matter of adoption after that.
TT: Do the SDN efforts of Orange Business Services and Orange (NYSE: FTE) overlap or are they discreet?
JI: It's a mix. Some systems are shared among our sister companies and some are unique. If I use Orange France -- the domestic carrier -- or our domestic network in Poland or in Russia run by a sister company, the integration between SDN in our environment and SDN in their environments are going to be unique because the requirements of a domestic carrier are far different than an international carrier like Orange. But the integration using these APIs is 100% what we're looking to do.
TT: So the work with TM Forum and MEF will be put to work within Orange as well with other carriers and cloud providers?
JI: Yes, absolutely.
— Carl Weinschenk, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation