In today’s network-centric world, services are having an increasingly shorter lifespan, increasing their overall cost. New network services often require expensive proprietary appliances to be purchased and deployed. Adding to this investment, to enable new services, these appliances needs to be racked, powered, and connected individually. As a result of these needed changes, network services are becoming increasingly more complex to deploy and manage.

Industry Challenge: Enabling Agile Service Delivery

The Network Operator’s Dilemma

In today’s network-centric world, services are having an increasingly shorter lifespan, increasing their overall cost. New network services often require expensive proprietary appliances to be purchased and deployed. Adding to this investment, to enable new services, these appliances needs to be racked, powered, and connected individually. As a result of these needed changes, network services are becoming increasingly more complex to deploy and manage.

Introducing: SDN, NFV and LSO

The industry initiatives of Software Defined Networking, Network Function Virtualization and Lifecycle Service Orchestration aim to address these problems, primarily by leveraging and evolving standard IT virtualization technology.

Software-Defined Networks (SDN) is an approach to designing, building and managing networks that separates the network control plane and the network data plane enabling networks to run with greater agility and efficiency.

Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is an approach to designing networks where traditional appliance hardware and software are decoupled. Functions such as switching, routing, firewalling, load-balancers etc are carried out in software that is run on off-the-shelf hardware, typically X86 based servers.

NFV is highly complementary to SDN. They are mutually beneficial but are not dependent on each other. Network functions can be virtualized and deployed without an SDN being required and vice-versa.

Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) can be thought of as the glue that binds together NFV ecosystems, SDN infrastructures, legacy OSS/ BSS, and traditional telecom hardware infrastructure.

Network Operator Vision

The industry aspires to move to a more agile world of service delivery – analogous to what is available to consumers in cloud services such as AWS and MS Azure. It is a vision of a telco world in which services can be instantiated, monitored, controlled, billed, and managed on demand, regardless of the network or the service provider.

Migration to SDN/NFV Infrastructures with LSO

Service Providers will not rip and replace. There is a significant installed base of network infrastructure and OSS/BSS systems and from both a technology and a business process perspective it is unrealistic to replace all existing infrastructure. The evolution is likely to start in individual network domains, network geographies or for individual service types, domains such as Edge, Access Network, Aggregation Network and services such as IP-VPN, EPC and IMS are likely candidates.

The new capability will initially be deployed where it brings the most value or where the legacy network already requires an upgrade anyway. Today’s architecture  of physical network functions will migrate to a hybrid architecture where there will be a mix of legacy and new SDN/NFV infrastructures.

Hybrid services bridging physical and virtual domains are likely to exist for many years. A hybrid scenario getting a lot of airtime could be SDN, based on OpenFlow for intra-data center connectivity to support NFV, with traditional WAN interconnects between data centers based on existing IP/MPLS core networks. Once SDN is mature in the WAN it will be possible to migrate to the full target architecture. A recent SDxCentral LSO market overview even suggested that “in 10 years, people should be asking what a carrier network is, because there will be no difference between a carrier network and a data centre.”

Migrating to SDN/NFV with LSO

Migrating to SDN/NFV with LSO Source: Impact of SDN and NFV on OSS/BSS by Open Networking Foundation

Download "Enabling Agile Service Delivery" and read more about network operator challenges in Cartesian Coordinates, Summer 2016 edition