The modern-day service provider networks are evolving and becoming more and more complex. We now have multi-layer, multi-service, multi-technology networks supporting a plethora of services, ranging from secured banking and trading data to Internet, voice and video, and catering to a wide range of customers – financial organizations, governments, content providers, enterprises and many more. Add technologies and workloads, such as 5G, IoT, cloud, VoIP, and streaming HD video to the mix, and it is easy to understand that the demands on the network – and network staff — are only increasing. Delivering all the diverse traffic within service level parameters introduces a few network challenges.
One challenge is accommodating the quality of service requirements for different applications. Even though data generated by different applications may traverse the same set of links to a destination, they likely will not have the same priority, bandwidth and latency requirements. For example, service provider networks carry video traffic over the same links that transport bulk data. While video traffic can afford packet drops but needs low latency, it is the opposite for bulk traffic. An enterprise may need top performance for a critical application traffic whereas nightly cloud backups just need plenty of bandwidth. To cater to such myriad requirements, the network operator needs the ability to optimize their network and carry different types of traffic, each with its own quality of service requirements. Optimizing the network for such a variety of traffic at the same time is challenging.
Today, many organizations require new services to be provisioned in a few days or even hours. For example, a television network may need a temporary, low latency link to broadcast a live event. While provisioning a new path for the service usually takes days or even months to properly plan and provision resources and paths, today’s subscribers are not willing to wait that long. They expect their services to be up and running in hours. But analyzing resources and calculating the path typically takes days or even weeks, and expediting the process increases the risk of configuration errors. It is challenging for a service provider to provision new services in hours, based on the demands from the customer.
Some organizations, including many government and financial enterprises, require that highly secure traffic does not traverse certain geolocations (e.g. exit the country’s borders). Achieving this at the IP/MPLS layer, which uses hop-by-hop routing and inherently prefers the shortest path, is a challenge. Constraints set by customers are not limited solely to data sovereignty. Some other common constraints are link and node diversity, low latency paths, diverse SRLGs and so on. Satisfying these demands is not solved by traditional routing or traffic engineering alone. Service providers need the ability to automatically direct traffic based on the constraints with little or no manual intervention.
Traditional routing and traffic engineering techniques cannot cater to the demands on today’s service provider networks. Network engineers need the ability to quickly optimize and automate their network, based on a customer’s requirements. This is where software defined networking (SDN) can help. With software, network configuration changes can be automated, enabling service provider networks to self-optimize based on the traffic requirements. For example, using SDN traffic engineering, data can be redirected from congested links to under-utilized links, helping provide more bandwidth to applications that need it. This helps save capex because a provider does not have to invest in as much new infrastructure to accommodate spikes in traffic demands.
SDN can also be used to automatically provision and deprovision paths or tunnels based on customer requirements, thus saving time as well as avoiding configuration errors that can lead to network downtime. An SDN-based approach also allows providers to route traffic based on path constraints, such as diverse paths, nodes or SRLG’s, avoiding specific geolocations, and so on.
For more information on how the Packet Design Explorer SDN Platform can solve service provider network challenges and help optimize and automate networks, check out these resources:
“Automating Network Optimization”, blog series by Stephane Litkowski, Network Architect for a Large European Telecommunications Provider: https://www.packetdesign.com/blog/automating-network-optimization-part-1/
Enabling Self-Healing, Self-Optimizing Service Provider Network: https://www.packetdesign.com/blog/enabling-self-healing-self-optimizing-service-provider-networks-part-1-of-3/
White Paper by Heavy Reading’s Caroline Chappell on “Combining Management Intelligence and SDN Programmability to Meet Hyperfast Enterprise Needs”: https://www.packetdesign.com/resources/white-papers/combining-management-intelligence-sdn-programmability-meet-hyperfast-enterprise-needs-caroline-chappell/
White Paper by Packet Design CTO Cengiz Alaettinoglu on “The Missing Layer: SDN Management and Orchestration for Multi-Service Networks”: https://www.packetdesign.com/resources/white-papers/missing-layer-sdn-management-orchestration-multi-service-networks/