There is no single magic bullet when it comes to SDN. A good virtualization strategy -- particularly when it comes to SDN -- demands balance and orchestration of resources, technologies and methodologies, according to Adam Saenger, vice president of global product developments and management at Level 3 Communications.
Considering the emphasis Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT) places on adaptive networking, that says a lot about the network carrier's network-virtualization philosophies.
In Part I of this three-part Q&A, Saenger delved into the roles of good employees and customer collaboration for improving the SDN
experience. (See Level 3's Saenger: SDN Takes a Village.)
Here in Part II, Saenger talks about the role of VNFs in the SDN market and some of the technical aspects of getting started with SDN. In the last installment, Saenger will continue his discussion of what it takes to get an SDN initiative -- whether new or preexisting -- right.
Telco Transformation: With all of the increased attention being paid to VNFs, and SD-WAN in particular, what has been the impact on the SDN market in general that you're seeing?
Adam Saenger: Actually, if I take a step back and look at the hybrid networking or adaptive networking market, the SDN market, the SD-WAN market, the NFV market, or even the VNF market -- or whatever, whether it's a virtual or physical network function -- we're seeing that the impact really across the board is that each component is a critical part to the whole. SDN specifically is providing a lot of that control function of each of those pieces -- call it an orchestration function -- whereby customers are really embarking on this digital transformation within their own operating environment. Each of those components has to be orchestrated to provide a whole.
As such, importance is really being placed across the board. We see a lot of focus being placed on the likes of SD-WAN, the likes of hybrid WAN, the likes of SDN. I think the story really starts to become even more meaningful when those elements are talked about in the broader picture all together.
TT: For an organization that is either beginning its software-defined networking journey or one that is revisiting how it is deploying SDN, how do you begin approaching that balance of the orchestration of all of those different elements?
AS: So I'll answer that in two ways: One is how we've done it, and then I'll answer it from the standpoint of the enterprise.
We don't view it as a new journey or a shift in a journey. We view it as a continuation of that journey. From an SDN perspective, we've been in this space for more than five years. We've looked at it as a critical step in our journey to remove hands or get hands out of the network -- so automating those human-based transactions that take place to either manage the implementation or ongoing assurance of customer services.
SDN has provided that gateway into that automation. We then took that step into exposing those capabilities to our customers, and that is through our Adaptive Network Control Solutions capabilities and overall network orchestration control.
Today, over 84,000 devices are currently controlled via that SDN orchestration layer, and that provides a layer of automation that allows us to look at various underlying access technologies. So if one looks at hybrid networking in and of itself, it's the compilation of multiple access types to provide customers connectivity to their location, between locations and to the network assets or resources that they need to run for their business.
Taking that into the future, we've recently launched our own version of SD-WAN. That software-defined WAN -- as we're controlling the network resources -- allows us to extend some of that control mechanism out to the edge and it will be expanded to include more control in the future while allowing customers to really control that end-to-end network capability. (See: Level 3 Launches Premises-Based SD-WAN .) When I say end-to-end, it's truly site-to-site or site into that resource -- call it a cloud resource.
The second answer is from an enterprise perspective. Enterprises are going through their own digital transformations. They're looking for their own ways of first growing their business, innovating within their industry and leveraging the hardened assets of the past. It's coupling their existing hardened infrastructure with the elasticity and growth capabilities of a cloud infrastructure. With those resources being coupled together -- and the control and orchestration that it takes to manage their business -- that's the next generation of what truly adaptive networking looks like.
TT: You mentioned "hardened assets." Can you tell me what you mean by that?
AS: An example of a hardened asset is the existing IT infrastructure that is resident on premise within the enterprise data center. We are seeing customers that are moving those assets into public environments -- or more commonly augmenting those resources -- into their own private data centers and into their own private IT resources. They are augmenting those with public resources so that they can grow faster, and shift resources more easily. In terms of a business continuity or disaster recovery plan, they can pull those resources back in in a much quicker way than what a static environment or hardened environment previously would allow.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation