SDN BUSINESS BRIEFING 2014: In the fast lane – part 1

27 August 2014 | Guy Matthews


As SDN moves from tentative sandbox trial to real-life deployment, we put the spotlight on some of the carriers showing the way forward. In partnership with vendors, these players are helping to forge the networking services market of tomorrow.

Carrier: Telecom Italia



Technology partner: Juniper Networks



Current solution: When formulating its SDN strategy, Telecom Italia was keen to find a solution that enabled the integration of both virtual and physical network functions. Working with Juniper Networks it has been able to do this, migrating its infrastructure over to a combined SDN and NFV model without the high capital outlay that going fully virtual at one sweep would have involved.

The carrier is using Juniper’s MX Series 3D Universal Edge Routers at PoP level where they perform the function of an edge services aggregation node. As a universal SDN gateway, the solution is able to connect both the physical and virtual side of the network. Telecom Italia is also trying out Juniper’s Contrail SDN and NFV controller with OpenStack as part of the integration of all aspects of the network.

The integration of Juniper’s technology to act as a “service hub” brings the dividend of increased flexibility and consequently greater ease of introducing new service features for the benefit of customers, says Paolo Fasano, head of data networks innovation with Telecom Italia: “We leveraged Juniper’s expertise to make SDN/NFV technologies the key to shortening time-to-market and improving cost effectiveness,” he adds.

Mike Marcellin, SVP of strategy and marketing with Juniper Networks, calls the result a “high-IQ” network: “It is now massively scalable and automated to enable rapid service provisioning,” he claims.

Expected future developments: Not content to innovate with SDN today, Telecom Italia is also looking into future uses for the technology. To this end it is collaborating with a number of leading universities in Italy on SDN research, using technology from vendor Cisco. The Joint Open Lab (JOL) consortium is set to continue its experimentation until at least through 2017. It hopes that the result will be even newer ways to introduce new services speedily using a simpler, smarter and more automated infrastructure. It also visualises network programmability as a means to lower network operating costs.

Carrier: Mobiltel



Technology partner: Affirmed Networks



Current solution: Telekom Austria’s subsidiary in Bulgaria, Mobiltel, has completed a trial of NFV, using the technology to stream content through a virtualised packet core over an LTE mobile network.

Mobiltel provides services to over 4.2 million customers in the country, and with overall market share of 39% claims to have a pivotal role as a driver of Bulgaria’s economy. Last year it says it grew its base of mobile broadband subscribers by 30%, and is also now selling an increasing amount of fixed broadband connectivity, following the acquisition of two of the largest fixed operators in the country in 2011. It claims it will be spending €100 million on implementing new technology this year alone.

Mobiltel conducted its virtualisation trial with technology partner Affirmed Networks, having set itself the aim of streaming the high-definition video over LTE in the simplest and most direct manner possible. The result is believed to be one of the first times that video content has been streamed across an NFV-enabled packet core over an LTE network. The contribution of Affirmed Networks was a virtualisation solution called the Affirmed Mobile Content Cloud, which includes 4G gateways, policy control and enforcement functions, dynamic scaling, MPLS-based VPN and other capabilities. Another Telekom Austria Group subsidiary – Vipnet – is also trialling a similar solution.

Expected future developments: Mobiltel believes that with its NFV trial completed, it can move to a full implementation phase which will eventually allow its subscribers to record and directly stream smartphone content into the cloud. This, it says, should provide a way for those subscribers to bypass the stage of transferring the content on to a PC, better protecting it against loss and making the consumption of that content simpler.

Carrier: NTT Communications



Technology partner: Virtela Technology Services



Current solution: Japanese network operator NTT Communications is claiming to be first to market with SDN-driven, cloud-based network services that can be instantly activated online.

The services, which will leverage both SDN and NFV technology, are being offered around the world and are designed, says the operator, to accelerate service delivery and cut the costs of enterprise networking. The services are being sold on a pay-per-use model, as a way to reduce the requirements imposed on customers through the usual long-term contractual commitments they have typically been expected to sign up for.

NTT Communications believes it has scored its industry first at a time when many operators are talking about future NFV and SDN deployment and trialling solutions here and there, but are not at the stage of actual use in a commercial context, and certainly not on a worldwide scale. The new offer will form part of NTT’s enterprise network services portfolio – Arcstar Universal One – which reaches more than 190 countries worldwide.

The services are being driven by Virtela Technology Services, following NTT’s buyout of the cloud services provider in early 2014.

Expected future developments: An intimation of its future SDN direction was offered by NTT Communications at the Open Networking Summit in March of this year. The carrier is already using an SDN overlay to connect 12 cloud data centres in different parts of the globe. But although ahead of many of its peers, it still has only 5-10% of its network SDN-enabled. It has said it now expects to use the services of multiple vendors as it seeks to extend SDN to the rest of its network.

Like some, but not all of the global carrier community, NTT is committed to using the OpenFlow protocol to, for example, help customers configure VPNs. It claims to have enjoyed major opex savings based on what it has achieved so far, but foresees more cost gains in the future.

Carrier: China Telecom



Technology partner: Huawei



Current solution: China Telecom has linked with vendor Huawei to deploy SDN technology in its Beijing Internet Data Centre (IDC).

Beijing Telecom, the subsidiary company under which the carrier trades in the city, will now be able to offer improved service customisation, upgrade the utilisation of resources and operations, and enhance network observation. The upgrade, it says, is the world’s first SDN-based data centre network in which commercial carrier-grade SDN infrastructure is implemented throughout.

Beijing Telecom has also launched a number of new services based around its SDN solution, including virtual resource services, assurance services and traffic reporting capabilities.

“Huawei has an extensive and successful collaboration with China Telecom in many areas,” says Zha Jun, the president of Huawei’s fixed network business unit.

“The deployment of SDN-based innovations demonstrates China Telecom’s foresight in cutting-edge technologies. Huawei will now continue to promote SDN standardisation and commercialisation to help operators excel in the SDN era.”

Huewei is also innovating with another major Chinese telecoms name. It is working with China Unicom on what it says is the world’s first commercial SDN-based IP radio access network (IPRAN).

Expected future developments: China Telecom may soon be benefitting from the next wave of network virtualisation R&D through its partnership with Huawei. The vendor has launched its own NFV solution for mobile broadband networks called Cloud Edge. It is designed to automate network management and enable operators to get to market quicker with new services in areas such as M2M and mobile video.

Huawei says the solution will also simplify network maintenance, reduce operational costs and enhance network resource utilisation.

The new solution is part of the company’s SoftCOM programme. One of its commitments is to lead in the standardisation of NFV, and as such it is an active member of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s NFV Industry Specification Group. It has been trialling new technology in Europe as well as China as part of making these standards as global as possible.

Read part 2 of this article here.