When it comes to rural America, thoughts that probably come to mind for most of us are picturesque farms, little league baseball games, and pick-up trucks, but “network transformation?” …not so much. I’ll admit that if I hadn’t been marketing networking technology solutions to rural carriers for the past 15 years, yours truly would most likely be in that group. The reality I realized some time ago, however, is that the thousand-plus small to mid-sized carriers serving rural communities across the US have a long history of being early adopters of innovative communications technologies.
Today, CenturyLink and Cyan jointly announced that CenturyLink will be offering NFV-enhanced services to their enterprise and SMB customers based on Cyan’s Blue Planet NFV Orchestrator. We’re proud to be a part of CenturyLink’s network transformation initiative—and we believe the implications of this announcement are significant.
Why? There are a couple of important industry firsts and take-aways related to this news for both Cyan and CenturyLink.
To start, as far as we can tell, this is the industry’s first commercialized deployment of NFV technology where the service is fully orchestrated from end-to-end. Specifically, Blue Planet is instantiating and controlling virtual functions, coordinating with the cloud infrastructure, interconnecting these virtual functions (e.g., vFirewall, vDPI, vRouter, vDNS, etc.) to achieve service chaining, and then coordinating this activity across the network and physical resources to deliver an end-to-end service.
On Monday, VMware announced their new vCloud for NFV with integrated OpenStack. This important industry announcement signals a bold move by VMware as they step onto the NFV stage and compete for market share in the carrier network virtualization market.
Cyan was proud to be included in this announcement as a supporter of VMware’s efforts. Blue Planet Cyan was proud to be included in this announcement as a supporter of VMware’s efforts. Blue Planet can serve as a NFV orchestrator on top of VMware vCloud to provide an end-to-end solution for deploying and managing VNFs and chaining services together to create new revenue streams. The integration work that would allow Blue Planet to work with vCloud has already been completed and the solution is up and running in a customer lab as we prepare for the roll-out of that customer’s new NFV-based services.
In a recent blog I wrote about why OpenStack in and of itself is not a service orchestrator but a cloud management system (CMS) that abstracts out the complexity of a heterogeneous data center making it easier for administrators to run applications on fairly large scale compute resources. OpenStack and other CMSs such as VMware and CloudStack fall into the virtualized infrastructure manager (VIM) category of the ETSI Network Function Virtualization (NFV) framework. This framework is one of the methods for providing structure around a multi-component and multi-vendor approach to bringing modern day IT solutions to the carrier world.
As Cyan announced the N-Series, Open Hyperscale Transport Platform, we saw an interesting announcement from Facebook about 6-Pack, a new open and modular switching platform for the data center (DC). Read the Business Insider article here.
Facebook’s 6-Pack and Cyan’s N-Series serve different data center (DC) networking functions. As you can see in this diagram below, Facebook’s 6-Pack sits inside the DC providing high scale and high capacity switching. Cyan’s N-Series sits at the edge of the DC providing hyperscale data center interconnect (DCI).
Recently, the term hyperscale was coined to describe the data centers for large cloud and content providers, which can contain well over 100,000 separate physical servers and can sends 100s of terabits per second of data to the outside world. A recent white paper showed that a large cloud providers can transmit more than 250 terabits per second (Tbps) of data between hyperscale data centers – that’s 2,500 of fully packed 100G links.
Inside the four walls of the data center, storage, compute, and local area network “white-box” switches already leverages standards, open architectures and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technologies to achieve the ultimate balance of performance and cost. Specifically,
- Standards ensure interoperability
- Open, Linux software and applications enables flexibility, rapid development, and a consistent operating environment for servers and switches
- COTS ensures rapid, market driven capacity and density with economies of scale that drives down costs.
2014 was a year full of PoCs and limited trials for SDN and NFV. These activities were important steps for the industry as network operators try to understand the operational impact of moving toward network virtualization.
PoCs and trials teach all of us important lessons. Should VNF placement be centralized or distributed? What role does OpenStack play vs. the orchestrator? What is the commercialization model? Why is deterministic placement important for VNF performance? At the end of the day, those of us in the trenches are learning quite a bit from these engagements with operators and other vendors.
Huh? Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday (January 22, 2015) said, “… the Internet will disappear …” – so much for sound bites. What Schmidt is really saying is that the Internet will be omnipresent. People will no longer need to think about physically connecting devices to or even building out networks. The network will be so prevalent and so much a part of everything we do that we won’t even consciously need to think about the network.
2014 was an exciting year for network transformation, full of new players, new projects and new products. So what’s next? Cyan’ s CTO, Steve West, shares his top network infrastructure and SDN/NFV predictions for 2015.
Top Infrastructure Predictions for 2015
1. Improved software, scaling and interconnectivity: Driven by increasingly competitive pricing for digital signal processors (DSP) and transceivers, 100G coherent and wavelength selective switches (WSS) will begin to hit their stride in metro/regional and Data Center Interconnect (DCI) networks.
One of the practical rebuttals against carrier SDN is that most customers will not pay materially more for dynamically provisioned services or dynamically increased service capacity. This is true if there’s no perceived difference in cost or value. But the cloud services market has already proven and established that dynamic, pay-as-you-go infrastructure can be very valuable and lucrative as a business model when it replaces a model that was less efficient and cost effective.
Fortunately carrier SDN proves its value far beyond just dynamically provisioned services. One of the first use cases of carrier SDN and NFV orchestration is actually about doing things faster (and ultimately with lower cost). Specifically, we’re referring to the rapid configuration and provisioning of WAN services across a multi-vendor infrastructure. Today, provisioning services is a hop-by-hop affair utilizing multiple vendor specific element management systems with manual processes along the way that can slow service delivery to a staggering 90 day process in some cases, or longer.