Operators to Meet Increasing Demands via SDN/NFV, APIs and Service Automation

  • Current Analysis
LONDON — Network providers aim to meet enterprise demands for automation and ease-of-use through SDN, NFV, operational streamlining and access fiber, finds a new report by Current Analysis, a provider of market intelligence and advice to global IT and telecom professionals.

The report, "U.S. WAN Services Update: A Look at Access Fiber, SDN, NFV, APIs and Automation," finds that despite the potential of Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV), operators in the US still tread carefully, and no single SDN business model has emerged as winner. NTT Com and its acquired Virtela business, as well as AT&T are among early commercial SDN service launches. Verizon and CenturyLink have not yet launched commercial services based on SDN, but their technology plans are mature enough that they have begun discussing them publicly. Several US providers also already operate bandwidth-on-demand services that are precursors to SDN, such as Level 3's (formerly tw telecom) Dynamic Capacity, Verizon's Dynamic Bandwidth and Masergy's Intelligent Service Control.

“Network providers are moving carefully with SDN/NFV technologies because the management demands are different," said Brian Washburn, director of global business network and IT services at Current Analysis. "Existing support systems and customer portals were not designed to work in real time, so providers need to make some difficult decisions about how they will make SDN/NFV compatible.”

According to Current Analysis, it is no coincidence that early commercial SDN adopters AT&T and NTT Com also focused on upgrading their customer portals with external-facing applications programming interfaces (APIs). “Someday, customers will expect to automate service delivery. The applications themselves, not IT administrators, will assemble and release virtual infrastructure as it is needed,” adds Washburn.

Bandwidth-enabling Fiber to the Customer Key to On-demand Future

The report also shows that access fiber to the customer is key to any on-demand future. In US network services, cable operators, incumbent network providers and alternative providers are lighting businesses with a mix of dedicated fiber and passive optical network (PON) technology.

For example, AT&T's multi-year initiative, Project Velocity IP, added fiber to 725,000 new businesses, and its goal is to reach 1 million fiber-fed businesses in 2015. Through FiOS, Verizon has been ramping up fiber access across its footprint for a decade. Besides dedicated fiber builds, CenturyLink has earmarked 16 markets to date for new PON deployments. The picture for the cable providers is similar. On the competitive carrier front, Level 3's acquisition of tw telecom roughly triples its lit building count; other companies stepping up fiber-based access — whether lighting their own, buying from and/or buying up metro fiber companies — include Zayo Group, XO Communications and Windstream.

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