Software-defined networks are the linchpin technology to a complete transformation of carrier networks, according to Telus' Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer Ibrahim Gedeon.
In the first part of a two-part Q&A with Telco Transformation, Gedeon spoke about how SDN was a key enabler for automation as well an important element for the migration to 5G and other new areas. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome when implementing SDN is the human element, according to Gedeon. He also stressed the importance of keeping a keen focus on "Day 2" operations and the total cost of ownership.
Telco Transformation: Please describe Telus' use of SDN, including what stage of deployment it is in, when the main work will be finished and the overarching goals.
Ibrahim Gedeon: Telus is currently the only major Canadian service provider -- and one of the early adopters globally -- to have an SD-WAN service launched in the market to enable a seamless path virtual connectivity and services.
Some of the ways we're using SDN include service chaining, automating deployment, reducing cost as well as dynamic provisioning and network occupancy and programmability:
- Service chaining: SDN is used to control the overlay and underlay networks in our NFV implementations so we can create end-to-end services for our customers and internal stakeholders. Two of the pillars of our Telus offering are self-serve and agnostic access.
- Automating deployment: SDN is a key component of our NFVi platform, enabling us to manage our infrastructure as code and to fully automate the deployment of new features and functions into our network. SDN increases our ability to enable innovation, and provides us with an opportunity to offer new services and to help evolve our customer base. As importantly, it also helps us reduce our capital and operational expenditures, takes out the cost of maintaining legacy equipment and allows our team to deliver with more agility and flexibility.
- Network occupancy/programmability and dynamic provisioning: SDN will be used to reconfigure our IP and optical networks to match the traffic requirements and to react to network incidents. This will help us maintain our customer experience, while making the most efficient use of our network resources.
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TT: What is the biggest challenge of an SDN deployment?
IG: The overarching challenge with SDN deployment is the human element. Rethinking our industry's model of operations and networks requires a tremendous amount of discipline and cooperation. I cannot stress the importance of ensuring "Day 2" operations and the need to evaluate the holistic total cost of ownership.
Brownfield, or existing infrastructure, requires integration of legacy physical network functions and the systems supporting them with SDN solutions. To realize the benefits of virtualization and automation one must also realize that the technology itself plays only one part of the end-to-end transformation that is required. Transformation also means taking advantage of this technology cycle to simplify.
Let's resist the urge to cause additional complexities by adding pieces such as ONOS, OpenStack and various orchestration/MANO initiatives. This transformation also requires us to upskill our people, and update our structures and processes. Addressing these challenges will be critical to our industry's success and ensuring telcos can adapt to the future.
TT: In February 2016, Telus Corp. (NYSE: TU; Toronto: T) announced that it would invest about $2 billion to upgrade infrastructure in Quebec. Is SDN part of the project? If so, can you describe the progress?
IG: SD-WAN is a critical step in how Telus will evolve our major infrastructure presence into 5G, namely mobile edge, centralized RAN and small cell deployments. When we launched SD-WAN and Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) we did so nationally and included the province of Quebec. This year will also see Telus building an NFV presence in Montreal, which will include SDN.
Overall these investments will help us move functions closer to customers in order to up-service remote communities and improve performance while keeping it as cost effective as possible.
— Carl Weinschenk, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation