Addressing Service Provider Challenges in the Next Generation Network Architecture

Jerzy George Szlosarek, COO and Vibeke Harder Director, Engineering, Epsilontel
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Jerzy George Szlosarek, COO and Vibeke Harder Director, Engineering, Epsilontel

Today’s application driven, internet based cloud environments are causing service providers to revisit and rollout new architectures. This can clearly be seen through a number of key emerging trends.

1. There is a distinct transition from traditional silo based networks in which multiple layers exist to service the various voice/data/internet applications to a converged common service provider backbone core. Huge traffic demand that is generated by unified end user devices hosted on shared cloud infrastructure allow operators to collapse multiple network layers into a commonly shared network environment. This can then be easily configured to segment the various services applications.

2. Increasing commoditization of bandwidth pricing is accelerating the move towards backbone convergence in order to avail of the cost efficiencies and massive network scale inherent in the new architectures.

3. Technology convergence and advancements in the field of optics and microprocessors have squeezed form factors down to such an extent that we now see transport optics embedded straight into servers. Consequently, the role of the network and the traditional IT landscape are now forming into a common unit, reducing the amount of layering in the network architecture.

4. Traditional Voice based networks are moving away from TDM to IP. This is being driven by the obsolescence of legacy TDM switch technology, more efficient, resilient and scalable IP backbones, full integration of voice and messaging embedded within applications as well as real estate savings by the decommissioning of large ageing assets.

5. Service providers are revisiting the traditional OSS architectures to encompass multiple network segments under a common, open, transparent system leading the drive towards SDN.

What are the key priorities that Service Providers should address

Service providers are adapting and facing significant challenges to keep up with the pace of change, rollout of new service offerings and maintenance of an efficient cost base. Therefore, there are a number of key issues that should be addressed.

1. Cost control is critical in today’s service provider networks. Revenue and margin structures have changed dramatically with the rise of disruptive OTT and cloud providers entering the market. Their rapid growth and global expansion have had a direct effect on traditional service provider offerings.

Cost efficiencies can be realised by rolling out converged shared packet backbones, decommissioning legacy TDM networks, collapsing network layers and introducing advanced network provisioning and management techniques (SDN).

2. Achieving Ethernet ubiquity within both the service provider backbone and at the NNI and handoff points to other network providers. This simplifies reach to the metro/access/core network and introduces enhanced and improved OAM, better SLA enforcement and faster access to services.

3. Addressing QoS and network analytics architectures is another very i mportant a rea o f c onsideration. W ith t he m ove t owards a converged packet based network, various services are running on a shared network basis and these need management in different ways. This could include the visibility of real-time protocols, enforcing security policies, measuring latency and jitter etc. Effective and real-time analytics is a fundamental part of enforcing the network policies and deploying the right solution is key to ensuring a successful transition to converged networks.

4. It is important to revisit and update the organisational struc­tures. As legacy network models are built in silos, elements of net­work function is independently owned and managed by dif­ferent business units and often have little impact on each other. Consider the role of a tradition­al voice and data network where each team is independent and use separate planning and man­agement techniques. To achieve successful convergence, inter­nal resources need to reskill and retool to remain viable and efficient in today’s markets. Another example can be seen with the integration of network engineering and IT staff. This is important in order to have the right resources in place for today’s application driven network en­vironment and address rollout of SDN concepts.

What opportunities lie ahead for Service Providers

The most interesting outcome of the changes occurring in the transition of networks to converged architectures is that service providers can maximise on the more powerful and simpler to manage networks. This will allow for more time to be invested into product and service development, procuring further innovation with their customers. The following are some examples of opportunities that lie ahead:

1. APIs enable customers to program the network resource on demand, introducing the element of dynamic resource handling and bringing the power of the network closer to the end user. Access and provisioning are facilitated directly by the applications without the need for manual intervention.

2. Service providers can rollout new services for specific applications based on a common network architectures and open markets more easily – i.e. cloud, gaming, enterprise, unified comms, real-time HD, mobility etc. This in turn creates new opportunities, products and revenue streams.

3. Restructuring the organisation enables service providers to become more customer focussed rather than limited by network and process constraints.

4. As cloud adoption and networks become easier to manage, the standardisation between service providers allows for increased collaboration and partnership models. This extends reach, introduces new business models, allows for greater efficiencies and offers the ability to explore new markets.

How to monetise network offerings in today’s commoditised landscape

New products and market development are essential in monetising the commoditised network landscape. As the network core is converged into a single IP based architecture the opportunities exist by creating value in the market.

This includes;

• Identifying new service opportunities.

• Working through a collaboration model with different partners.

• Extending reach to new geographic areas.

• Exploring possibilities with OTT and Cloud service providers.

• Providing advanced analytics and high performance applications which resolve IP network problems around security and QoS handling.

• Innovating with SDN concepts and application developments and gaining confidence with software based models.

The real highlight of today’s networking development is in the IT and Network convergence. Being prepared to handle the applications and new networks is really the key to remaining competitive and viable into the future.

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