Advancing the Network through SDN and NFV

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FierceWireless.com 18 17 M AY 2 0 14 M AY 2 0 14 FierceWireless Service providers like AT&T are turning to NFV and SDN to reduce operating expenses through automation of provisioning and deployment, as well as scaling of network functionality. AT&T's Domain 2.0 and "User-Defined Network Cloud" initiatives highlight the new focus telecom operators are putting on virtualization as they hustle to revamp their stodgy communications businesses and morph them into nimble, customer-centric lifestyle partners. Key to this vision is AT&T's Supplier Domain Program 2.0, announced in September 2013. Domain 2.0, as it has become known, is aimed at lining up vendors to fulfill the operator's goal of building "an advanced all-IP broadband, all-wireless, and all-cloud infrastructure," said Tim Harden, president of AT&T supply chain, at the time. Integrated through AT&T's wide- area network (WAN) and using NFV and SDN, this architecture is expected to simplify and scale AT&T's network by separating hardware and software functionality, separating network control plane and forwarding planes as well as improving functionality management in the software layer. The program's initial focus is on AT&T's core and metro network. To bring its all-IP vision to fruition, AT&T said it will seek new providers with different skills and capabilities in addition to the current providers it has. In February 2014 the operator named its first Domain 2.0 vendors: Ericsson, Tail-F Systems, Metaswitch Networks and Affirmed Networks. In April 2014, the operator followed up with two more selectees: Amdocs and Juniper Networks. The Domain 2.0 supplier program supports AT&T's "User- Defined Network Cloud," which the operator also announced in February. John Donovan, senior executive vice president, AT&T technology and network operations, wrote in a blog entry that the cloud model will deliver network as a service (NaaS) to customers, giving them "control over a personalized network" that accompanies them everywhere. Numerous telecom operators are similarly seeking ways to empower customers though cloud-based architectures, said Shauli Rozen, director of product strategy for Amdocs. "The future network will be a self-service network," he noted. "Many of the carriers we talk to compare the future network to an app store," Rozen explained. In that scenario, users can easily select their own services while open systems allow third parties to create new network services. Indeed, Donovan said AT&T wants its customers to be able to, for example, add physical storage capacity to a U-verse DVR or add AT&T Digital Life to their personal network simply by making a few taps on a device. GAINING FROM A NEW APPROACH AT&T's Domain 2.0 vendors are not saying a lot about what exactly they are providing to the carrier. However, AT&T specified that it will work with Ericsson on integration and transformation services, and noted Affirmed Networks will provide virtualized evolved packet core (vEPC) technology. "Obviously, Juniper can't comment specifically on our products used in AT&T's program, nor what solutions Juniper will help to enable," said Steve Shaw, director of product marketing, mobility solutions at Juniper Networks. AT&T Seeking Early- Mover Advantage in a Virtualized World BY TA MM Y PA R K E R However, he said service providers in general are turning to NFV and SDN to curb opex through automation of provisioning, deployment and scaling of network functionality. "The other primary benefit is to improve service agility- -and shorten the time to revenue for new network functions and capabilities," Shaw said. "In a recent paper developed by Juniper and ACG Research, it was calculated that a service provider could add capacity 87 percent faster as a virtualized network function vs. a traditional physical appliance, and do it at 92 percent lower cost," he added. Rozen also did not share what Amdocs is supplying to AT&T, but he noted Amdocs has been focused on developing its prowess around the ETSI-defined management and orchestration layer (MANO) of NFV. He said operators can use data within their operations support systems (OSS) to create better and smarter orchestration. Two things are needed to create a more flexible network, Rozen said: a product catalog or link that will make all the different layers speak the same language and NFV orchestration. The latter fills in the gap between the users of the business OSS systems and the new value and flexibility that operators want to enable. INITIATING CULTURE CHANGE One point that AT&T has repeatedly stressed is that its vision of an IP- and cloud-based future will require massive changes within its own culture. AT&T issued a white paper in late 2014 regarding Domain 2.0 and spotlighted the cultural transformation it envisions. "Domain 2.0 comprises more than simply a network or service architecture. It requires appropriate business practices, a supplier and software ecosystem, a software- savvy planning and operations organization, and management willing to try alternatives and fail fast," the white paper said. Telecom product managers have long been frustrated that before they can introduce a new product, they must create a complex business case and go through a nightmare administrative process for gaining approvals through the operator's hierarchy. Carriers want to reduce those hurdles, but this requires "some process changes, actual change management in the way that people work," Rozen said. AT&T's nascent plunge into network virtualization will likely undergo many changes as the operator moves up the learning curve. But its aggressive efforts should provide lessons for other telecom operators. "While still early, its clear NFV/ SDN will transform how service providers operate their networks," said Juniper's Shaw. l "While still early, its clear NFV/SDN will transform how service providers operate their networks." STEVE SHAW, DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT MARKETING, MOBILITY SOLUTIONS AT JUNIPER NETWORKS "The future network will be a self-service network." SHAULI ROZEN, DIRECTOR OF PRODUCT STRATEGY FOR AMDOCS

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