Windstream has several virtualization irons in the fire as it moves towards a programmable network environment, according to Jeff Brown.
In this Telco Transformation Q&A, Brown -- who is director of product management and product marketing -- discussed how Windstream Communications Inc. (Nasdaq: WIN) is using SDN and NFV for optical networks and wavelengths, its work on virtualizing and automating its Carrier Ethernet product line and its involvement with ONAP.
Telco Transformation: The use of SDN and NFV for wavelengths and optical networks has lagged packet flows and network functions. What is the challenge in the implementations of SDN and NFV for optical networks and wavelengths and how are you overcoming them? What is the advantage of implementing them at that layer?
Jeff Brown: In terms of strategic direction, as businesses' bandwidth needs continue to grow, we believe the consumption of optical services will mirror that growth particularly for solutions requiring connectivity to data centers to access cloud resources. The implementation of software-defined service orchestration for wavelengths will enable Windstream to more seamlessly scale to meet those bandwidth needs and provide an exceptional customer experience.
As far as the challenges are concerned, control planes at the optical layer rarely traverse multiple vendor domains. Device and link discovery are more difficult in Layer 1 versus Layer 2 or Layer 3 networks where protocols like LLDP and IGP/BGP can be leveraged. Windstream is tackling this challenge via aggressive network element discovery and data integrity efforts, for example marrying inventory records with domain controllers to list all possible devices, links, and paths down to the device, shelf, and card level throughout the network.
TT: You are planning to move from virtualization of the transportation layer to other network layers. How will virtualization of other network layers be phased? What will be achieved in terms of service orchestration?
JB: There are multiple ways to view the virtualization efforts, both from a network layer view as well as a market solution or product view. Iíd prefer to look at the initiative from a customer perspective; viewed from the lens of "so when will I be able to take advantage of the benefits of Windstream moving to a programmable network environment?"
From that perspective, there are several parallel efforts underway. Windstream is actively working to virtualize and automate our Carrier Ethernet portfolio, which includes Ethernet access and Ethernet line services.
Simultaneously, service orchestration for wave circuits utilizing additional transport vendors is underway. As Windstream extends service orchestration beyond the core into the regional networks that reach into many tertiary markets, customers will continually see an expansion in the number of wave routes that can benefit from SDN automation,
Enabling an SDN fabric across multiple layers lays the foundation to roll out truly innovative services including near real-time, on demand cloud & connectivity solutions. Combining those efforts with use cases based on NFV-O (NFV orchestrator) solutions will result in reduced time-to-market and more agile product creation to respond to the marketís quickly evolving cloud & connectivity requirements.
TT: You are implementing intent-based service orchestration that embeds intelligence at every level for web-scale operations. How does this advance your network management beyond what NFV MANO can do? What is the relationship between intent-based service orchestration and the approach you take to NFV and VNFs?
JB: Our intent is to implement intent-based orchestration for both PNFs (physical network functions) and VNFs. The objective is to expose the network as an accessible cloud platform, whereby a low-level understanding of network design, capability and state arenít necessary to order connectivity services.
TT: You recently joined ONAP, which plans to release an architecture that integrates open source ECOMP and the Open Orchestrator Project (OPEN-O) to support the coming wave of 5G, IoT and cloud applications and services. (See ONAP Embraces More Members.) What does this tell us about the state of NFV deployment by your company and the degree of automation you seek to achieve? How does this affect the use cases you address and the verticals you serve?
JB: Windstream decided in join ONAP earlier this year as we believe ONAP represents what appears to be a critical mass of global network operator support that will hopefully resolve some of the fragmentation that has hindered industry momentum in this area.
My early observations are that the initial waves of ONAP use cases are oriented around technologies that aren't directly aligned to our business model, such as 5G. So, to date, we have not expansively deployed NFV-O solutions. With respect to the degree of automation desired, we feel strongly that end-to-end lifecycle management is a requisite for any network operator that intends to deploy a scalable NFV platform.
TT: You have lately been active in open standards bodies. What are you looking to achieve especially given that you operate in a multi-vendor environment?
JB: There is certainly a lot of collaboration occurring within the industry and ONAP, MEF and OpenDaylight are examples of that. While use of the term "standards bodies" might be incorrect, there is a heightened sense of awareness within the industry regarding the progress being made, and we are doing our part to contribute to it and demonstrate our leadership in the SDN and NFV arenas. As an example, we have some IT teams spending almost one-third of their time contributing code development back to the open community, in this case ONAP.
Additionally, we have been very active in trying to influence the community regarding how these emerging and sometimes competing technologies should evolve. We feel it's our obligation to drive a leadership role in this space and press for architectural principles -- for example, influencing intent-based networking making its way into ONAP.
Other areas of priority for us in the open community are driving out use cases that target "brownfield" legacy PNF orchestration. In addition to service orchestration, physical network orchestration is a key driver and we'd like to see more focus in that area.
Also, we are interested in pursuing use cases beyond the initial wireless carrier/5G and IoT that are being developed, that would be more relevant to the businesses we operate in today.
— Kishore Jethanandani, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation