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SDN needs a “cultural shift” according to Capacity Europe panel

14 November 2016 | James Pearce

Telecoms operators need a cultural shift to embrace new technologies such as software-defined networks (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV), a panel at Capacity Europe claimed.

Capacity Europe - SDN panelThe claim was made by Eduardo Guardincerri from Telefonica Business Services Wholesale, who argued that the wholesale industry had been focussed on "digging trenches" and building new networks so long, the move to new digital networks could be painful.

"For us big corporations, NFV and SDN is a major cultural change, but it’s a necessary one. We need to stop digging and start building networks over software. It is a big change, and it will be really tough.

"Customers need bandwidth on demand, and that is only going to be possible through SDN."

The Telefonica Wholesale VP of product marketing made a call to arms for the industry: "We need to build more partnerships and start working together on how these future services form different providers will all interconnect. We have to talk amongst ourselves more."

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SDN is a hot topic in the industry, with the likes of Telstra, Colt and AT&T all leading the way with new SDN developments. It allows networks to become more flexible allows by allowing network administrators to manage network services through abstraction of lower-level functionality.

One of the questions the panel, which also included Colt Technology Services CTO Rajiv Datta and Vodafone Carrier Services VP of enterprise products connectivity, security and wholesale Angus Flett, were asked was how can SDN be monetised by carriers.

Flett claimed ARPUs for carriers are destined to go down because of outside influences, but argued an on-demand model for networks helping to fill in the revenue gaps this left.

"Orchestration has a scale play and we do expect ARPUs to fall, but an on-demand model will help drive consumption and that will help us plug the gap.

"That change in models can be scary, given the scale of our investment compared with that of OTT players. The move to cloud is happening, and the pace of change is scary. It’ll change the way we work, so we have to be quicker to respond."

During the panel, he unveiled Vodafone has plans to roll out an SD-WAN product in 2017 – just one day after AT&T revealed the same during a separate discussion, before announcing a partnership with Colt.

Colt’s Datta spoke about security concerns around SDN, and how telecoms carriers can make sure a network that is led by software is as secure as their traditional, physical infrastructure.

"Security is a huge issue for telecoms companies," he explained, in answer to a question from chair Mary Stanhope, the VP of marketing, for Global Capacity. "Traditionally, we aren’t software developers. Telcos have had hardware developers, engineers, people used to building physical infrastructure.

"The OTT players are all software engineers but, with SDN, we need to embed security on a software level. That is one of the biggest shifts we face.

"From an SDN perspective, there are new things to protect. Telcos are not built to be developers so we have to learn that."

However, the benefits of SDN could be huge, he added, because the ability to buy something on demand is something customers already understand on a basic level.

"SDN has so much interest because the use case for it is so clear to customers. It is tangible and that makes it appealing."

Topics: Capacity Europe, SDN, NFV, SD-WAN, security, Eduardo Guardincerri, Telefonica Business Services Wholesale, Rajiv Datta, Colt Technology Services