To leverage the full potential of NFV, service providers need to overcome the challenges of integrating global and local networks, according to John Isch, practice director of network and voice at Orange Business Services.
When used on a network, NFV and VNFs have been instrumental in the digital transformation of SD-WANs. The full potential of VNFs will be realized when an equivalent transformation happens on the last mile. APIs will help to integrate the global and the local networks and create a single pool of resources. Once those APIs are ready, it will then be possible to manage -- from a portal -- all of the resources available to build enterprise applications. This integration is essential for the operation of distributed networks that respond to the fluctuating demands at the edges of the network.
Orange Business Services -- a division of Orange (NYSE: FTE) -- specializes in the integration of applications, networks, data flows, and network management in order to deliver services to enterprise customers.
Telco Transformation: Managed service providers, such as Masergy Communications Inc. , have a head start in the use of NFV/VNFs to serve enterprise needs for service and application developments via portals. How does a telecom service provider like Orange plan to gain favor with enterprise customers against such entrenched players? Can you talk about Orange's portal?
John Isch: Orange Business Services has added SDN/NFV control functionality to our existing customer portal, which known as "My Service Space." From the portal, customers can order, manage and terminate services on our SDN/NFV platform, which is called "Easy Go." Currently, we offer a PoP-based Fortinet firewall. In the coming months, the portal will expand control functions both in the PoP and within universal CPE at the edge. More services -- such as routing, WAN optimization, SD WAN, session border control, and wireless access control, among others -- will be added.
TT: There is a growing belief that 5G will unleash the full capabilities of NFV and SDN when intelligence and functions will be distributed across the network from the core to the edge and will be able to serve the needs of the enterprise as latencies are slashed and decisions executed at many endpoints. 5G is at an early stage of deployment and NFV has not fully matured. In this context, how do you plan to serve the needs of the enterprise?
JI: Certainly SDN/NFV will bring automation and dynamism that is not present in today’s mobile networks. Within the Orange group, we have a direct mobile presence in 29 countries globally. The members of our Freemove Alliance will help to extend our services to over 100 countries. As a result, we have a strong interest in 5G and SDN/NFV developments. Orange Business Services will watch these developments and leverage them wherever possible. Having the ability to leverage SDN across carrier domains via API is something that we are continuing to work on, we can see this as a means to leverage gains in 5G.
TT: Network slicing and multi-tenancy are believed to be some of the key developments in infrastructure that are needed to optimize network services towards the specific needs of the enterprise. What is Orange doing in this regard?
JI: Network segmentation is becoming a standard requirement for customers, though we observe this largely among clients who are looking at an SD-WAN type solution. This kind of segmentation is a natural fit for OTT SD-WAN considering that its deployment, typically, is end-to-end. Orange Business Services is developing an SD-WAN solution based on Riverbed's SteelConnect that will allow it to provide traffic segmentation.
From Orange’s managed service perspective, multi-tenancy on the management platform is a necessity and affords the deployment of solutions on a single platform for multiple customers. We can develop cost-effective solutions for our clients by serving several clients on a single platform.
TT: Meeting enterprise application needs poses new challenges such as the provisioning of open platforms, open APIs and DevOps so that an ecology of partners can collaborate. Could you talk about how you plan to approach these issues?
JI: Open APIs and open platforms are crucial to the development of SDN/NFV solutions across all carrier and network function provider platforms. Like it or not, our global network infrastructure has become integrated to a great extent. But this global network cannot operate in isolation. Every global network necessarily includes local access usually provided by a third party. Additionally, it needs network functions currently provided in distinct hardware. Finally, the global network needs to integrate with cloud services.
For carriers to provide truly flexible and innovative solutions, we need to be able to utilize APIs between these systems. If you look at the case for bandwidth-on-demand, without the ability to impact the configuration/capacity of the last mile facility, the cost is fixed. In order to provide a flexible service, both in function and cost, we need to not only be able to vary the bandwidth but also prices that are charged for it.
Orange is collaborating with AT&T to standardize and automate interoperability management of wholesale connectivity products by service providers offering multi-operator services. This initiative started in December, and we plan to complete it by the end of 2017. (See Seen & Heard: AT&T, Orange Team Up on Open Source & SDN.) It will cover service qualification, quoting, ordering, billing and service assurance. Service qualification and ordering are under MEF oversight.
We are taking recourse to the API architecture to avoid locking into designs unique to any one service-provider. We will take advantage of aspects of the API architecture that will bring greater flexibility end-to-end. This will include extensibility by using APIs that follow RESTful patterns driven TM Forum API by meta-data. The API structure covers standard service/product features -- for example, on MEF guideline for Ethernet -- but can support extensions. Additionally, the architecture will be flexible -- the same API function structure will support different kinds of services. Furthermore, each API Function will support different API operations. For example, orrdering API includes new start, changes, cancels, and lifecycle status. We believe this work will enable cross platform solutions that will allow for the greatest flexibility and value for our customers.
TT: Orange has entered into a collaboration with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)
to test ECOMP -- now called Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP)
-- that was designed for multi-layer NFV control and orchestration for distributed networks. Would ECOMP enhance your capabilities to serve enterprise needs?
JI: At this point, Orange’s implementation/testing of ECOMP has been in isolated cases within Orange Poland. (See Orange Takes AT&T's ECOMP on Test Drive.) It hasn’t been tested or deployed in our global Orange Business Services network.
— Kishore Jethanandani, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation