Value Proposition for Virtual Networks: The Dilemma

As we think about the corporate data centers and the [Inter]networks that join them, we begin to recognize that there are a number of critical points in which information is accessed, produced, cached, transited, processed and stored.  One critical feature of the emerging landscape is that mobility and the mega-bandwidth edge has changed the underlying network basis of the design of Web Scale systems, and how they overlay with traditional ISP and Carrier Network topologies:

On the location taxonomy:

  1. PREMISE: Person, Device, Service = Ethernet/IP
  2. EDGE: Mobile Base Station, Distribution Point, DSLAM = Network Edge IP->Metro Transport Network [IP/MPLS, xWDM]
  3. EDGE/METRO/BACKBONE: Regional Data Center = Metro ->Core Carrier Transport Network [IP/MPLS, xWDM, PON]
  4. BACKBONE/CORE: Carrier Data Center  = Core Carrier Transport Network -> ISP Network
  5. INTERNET: ISP = ISP Network -> Internet
  6. repeat 5,4,3,2,1 to target.
You can see how the latency, and costs can stack up.  This model is hugely “North / South” targeted with packets making huge horseshoes through the network in order to transit content.  And for most carriers, physical and protocol barriers exist throughout location tiers preventing bypass or intermediating strategies that might support everything from local caching/routing, to increased traffic and congestion management.
Content Carriage Cost, PREMISE->EDGE and EDGE->BACKBONE bandwidth dilemma.
  • Reduce Cost, Complexity and Increase Service Flexibility
    • Ability to introduce new services quickly and adapt to changingtraffic patterns is crucial.
    • Move network functions away from expensive hardwareinfrastructure to software running on lower cost COTS hardware.
    • Use Software Defined Networks (SDN) and Cloud Computing toprovide the required flexibility, and the ability to adapt to changing traffic patterns.
  • N2 GN Principles
    • Separate Control & Data.
      • Open Standards Based Interfaces (OpenFlow)
    • Introduce application/policy -based traffic steering.
    • Introduce virtualization.
    • Standards and Automation for higher level functions will becritical to the transformation.

The Benefits:

  • Virtualized environment
    • You can load up servers to an appropriate production traffic loading
    • Hardware resilience can be disconnected from the service applications
      • this leads directly to reduced Power, AirCon, and other facility requirements
    • Standard hardware
      • Large scale drives cost down (Economy of Scale
      • One Spare holding SKU, drastically reducing the number of unitsneeded.
      • Reduces field force training requirements
      • Get away from the “new software release means a field firmwareupgrade”, which takes many truck rolls and potentially manycombinations to handle.
    • Disaster recovery/business continuity can be simplified
    • Software Implementation of Network Functions
    • Introduce new services without deploying an entire network of newhardware, and if it fails commercially you can reuse the hardware.
    • Move workloads around the network to tactically handle capacity issues in specific geographical areas.

    The Future

    Software Defined Content Networks (SDCN) via SDN:

    • Functional Agility
      • Mutable functions
      • Content/Application-aware routing and separation of packet forwarding from control
        • to rapidly introduce new services and adapt to changing traffic patterns
    • The Network Processing Slice
      • The network infrastructure consists of low cost network elements: Servers, Packet Optical Transport, Data Center
    • Switches
      • Elements are edge located where needed and consolidated where needed
      • Network functions, caching, applications, enablers all run in virtualized distributed equipment
      • Transport is an integrated optical IP network
And just to wrap up on the importance, something that I thought was relevant to the re-invention of the network:
Akamai’s [now retired CEO] Paul Sagan w/ Om Malik @ Structure 2012 advice to carriers “extend IP throughout [and increase transport network bandwidth] and limit protocol differences to enable to the Instant Internet”
  • must deliver to user expectation in TV like experience
  • need 100fold increase in bandwidth & transactions by end of decade
  • 2 BTxns/day today
  • – Content Delivery Services < 50% of business, but rather provide traffic control, namely performance and security guarantees

To play off of Akamai‘s requirements, Service Providers are building out well positioned [read distributed] data centers with a focus on capital and operational [power/people] efficiencies.  As these distributed centers operate, a key opportunity it to avoid IP transit costs (e.g. the long haul inter-connect tariffs) and also to support workload prioritization to reduce over-provisioning and support premium offers.

These new data centers, built for changing workloads like Analytic Warehouses / Hadoop, require substantial East-West or bisection bandwidth across a “stretched” core network.  This emergence is markedly different from the North/South Bandwidth delivered through Content Delivery and Transactional Web applications.

Perhaps the most forgotten value proposition in the mobile/access edge.  Pushing SDN capabilities all the way to the endpoint.  At this point carriers typically dominate the last mile, and view content loads like NetFlix, iCloud and other services as parasitic.  With the ability to create differentiated service offers all the way to the eyeballs, there’s a chance that, regulation permitting: QoS, lower latency or location aware services can again be recognized as a driver in the growth of ARPU/value premiums.

We are just starting to see the broad thinking about NV/SDN in the providers, but I do truly expect these technologies to unlock new services and new revenue streams.

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