Pipeline Magazine hosted a panel discussion webinar on the topic The Network Transformation Imperative. The webinar, co-sponsored by Packet Design and gen-E Technologies, features experts from the industry speaking about what is driving the network transformation and the challenges faced by operators. The webinar also covers technical considerations for network transformation such as SDN, NFV, open architecture, self-healing networks, machine learning and more. Matt Sherrod, VP of Product Management at Packet Design, was one of the industry experts on the panel. Here is a summary of the webinar discussion.
Jim Fagan, Director of Global Platforms at Telstra, pointed out that there are predominantly two factors driving network transformation.
The first is the need for operators and service providers need to offer new solutions to their enterprise customers. The need is to take the existing, fixed network, that typically takes 30-60 days to implement and runs specific protocols, and turn it into a dynamic network. This not only accommodates the explosion in bandwidth but also enables new and better ways of connectivity – interconnecting various cloud platforms and mobility applications used by the customer with their corporate offices and data centers. The network is at the heart of this digital transformation.
The second factor is that service providers must go through a network transformation internally. Fagan shared that Telstra has embarked on a $3 billion upgrade to a next-generation network, uplifting the core network, virtualizing and creating 5G network slices, all making use of SDN and NFV. This network transformation can help with cost savings, help quickly roll-out new products and services, as well as allow their customers to leverage the network better.
For example, Telstra has designed the Telstra Programmable Network, a fully automated SDN using which customers can order services and infrastructure from the provider. Closer to home, Packet Design’s Explorer SDN applications enables service providers to accelerate the configuring and delivery of new services based on bandwidth, path constraints, and so on.
During the webinar, the panelists described a number of challenges that can impact network transformation.
Frequently mentioned was the lack of inter-operability and standards. The general opinion was: the faster we have standards, the faster network transformation will occur. However, the industry cannot wait for standards to emerge and must ensure inter-operability between carriers, by publishing open APIs, for example, and with legacy network infrastructure.
A second challenge is that the switch to software-defined networking cannot be immediate. While software development skills are important, no network operator can afford to lose its network engineering expertise. The challenge many service providers are facing is how to mesh those teams together — a DevOps challenge.
Another challenge to network transformation discussed by the panel is technology scaling. Many network operators have proven SDN implementations in lab networks but have experienced problems when they moved them to the live network.
I think it’s fair to say that network transformation is going through the early stages of maturation that we have seen many times before in IT. A good example is the adoption of cloud computing.
In addition to the network transformation drivers and challenges, the webinar also covered key considerations for delivering new services reliably and rapidly.
Sound interesting? There was a lot more great content covered in the webinar. Check out the webinar recording to learn more about network transformation.