SDN BUSINESS BRIEFING 2014: In the fast lane – part 2

28 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.

Continued from part 1.


Carrier: China Mobile



Technology partner: Alcatel-Lucent



Current solution: Huawei is by no means the only vendor trialling new-look virtualisation solutions with Chinese carriers. Alcatel-Lucent is also doing work in this area with China Mobile, the world’s largest mobile operator by subscriber base.

In an agreement worth a reported €750 million, Alcatel-Lucent will move the Chinese operator to an all-IP, high-speed broadband network that is ready for NFV-based and cloud-based services.

Alcatel-Lucent has an interest in Chinese telecoms going back decades, it claims. In 2013, China Mobile selected Alcatel-Lucent to provide its lightRadio 4G TD-LTE overlay to support its new 4G network.

Now in the NFV space, the two companies will be using Alcatel-Lucent’s virtualised proof of concept LTE radio access network (RAN), Baseband Unit (BBU) and virtualised evolved packet core (vEPC) in a multi-vendor environment. They claim the results will prove how an open mobile cloud network can enhance agility, efficiency and scale.

Expected future developments: Alcatel-Lucent says it is not done yet with its pioneering work in China: “We are a key technology provider in virtually every aspect of China Mobile’s growing mobile ultra-broadband network,” says Michel Combes, CEO of Alcatel-Lucent. “We have worked side-by-side with China Mobile throughout many developments in mobile technology, including the development of 4G TD-LTE. We are continuing that close collaboration as China Mobile moves to the next level of ultra-broadband through NFV supporting future cloud applications and services.”

Carrier: Telefónica



Technology partner: Infinera



Current solution: Spanish operator Telefónica has been working with optical transport vendor Infinera to demonstrate the use of SDN in supporting network-as-a-service (NaaS) capabilities in a multi-layer environment, free from proprietary constraints.

The results, say the partners, prove that end users can define MPLS services from a single screen, while allowing the allocation and configuration of networking resources at both the IP/MPLS layer and the transport layer. The power and automation of such a solution will allow service providers to deploy services faster, more efficiently and at lower cost, they say.

“By working closely with the advanced research centre at Telefónica I+D we are able to keep our finger on the pulse of network operator requirements for next-generation transport networks,” said Chris Liou, VP of network strategy at Infinera. “These NaaS demonstrations highlight an application for software defined networks that is gaining traction with global carriers.”

The two partners have said that NaaS allows operators to offer user-initiated connectivity services to multiple customers on top of a common physical infrastructure, empowering the customer to request bandwidth services as needed, without manual intervention.

Víctor López, head of SDN transport innovation at Telefónica, cited the demonstration as an example of the type of research and development that puts the carrier at the forefront new technologies: “We’re looking to continually reduce deployment time and the number of manual operations, and deliver more dynamic connections on our network,” he said.

Expected future developments: Telefónica is also working with SDN solution developer Cyan and software company Red Hat to develop new NFV architecture. The solution will be based around Red Hat’s OpenStack platform, developed in partnership with Telefónica.

OpenStack provides the tools needed to manage a range of virtual machines, says Red Hat. “NFV offers CSPs the ability to reduce infrastructure costs via simplified network design and management, while increasing agility to achieve faster time to revenue,” explained Radhesh Balakrishnan, general manager of virtualisation and OpenStack at the vendor. “Along with OpenStack, NFV truly has the ability to revolutionise the way CSPs build and operate their networks.”

Service provider: Dimension Data



Technology partner: Cisco, and others



Current solution: More cloud services and IT provider than carrier, South Africa’s Dimension Data is nonetheless wired firmly into the connectivity community following its acquisition by NTT.

Hot on the heels of joining Cisco Systems’s Intercloud Platform, Dimension Data has launched its own approach to SDN that in fact owes allegiance to no single vendor.

The company’s Software-defined Networking Development Model is, it says, a move aimed at helping organisations understand the impact that SDN will have on their ICT operations.

The Software-defined Networking Development Model is a strategic process with a consulting-led workshop at its core. The workshop includes an educational element to ensure a common understanding of SDN, before moving on to review the impact of SDN to four key dimensions of ICT infrastructure, ICT operations, organisation and business alignment.

Following the analysis of the output of the workshop, its customers will be provided with a series of recommendations on how an organisation can begin its SDN programme and what specific actions to take to ensure its success.

Expected future developments: Dimension Data is putting SDN at the heart of its vision, and is likely to be making future investments in what it sees as a game-changing technological shift.

“SDN is not just a trend, but an important shift that will drive significant changes in how networks are built and operated – and ultimately the entire networking industry,” says Rob Lopez, Dimension Data’s group executive for networking. “Enterprises are searching for more cost-effective and agile ways of ensuring that their networks keep up with the rapid changes in ICT, and IDC predicts that SDN revenues will reach $3.7 billion in the next two years.”

Lopez says that, based on Dimension Data’s 31-year history of designing, maintaining and supporting network solutions and infrastructure, he is excited about the possibilities of SDN: It offers us additional choices when architecting our clients’ networks,” he adds. “More importantly, SDN creates opportunities for cost savings through more efficient operations, as well as a more effective delivery of network services.”

Carrier: Hrvatski Telekom



Technology partner: Cisco



Current solution: For a large incumbent carrier, it can be hard to know where to start on migrating to something as new and game-changing as SDN. For Deutsche Telekom, the solution that presented itself was to go local and do it small.

Hrvatski Telekom is the country’s subsidiary in Croatia – that country’s largest operator but a fraction of the size and complexity of the mother company. When Hrvatski wanted to improve IPTV services for subscribers, it saw a chance to make that happen faster and more efficiently with SDN.

It turned first of all to giant vendor Cisco, ending up as the very first deployer of its Reference Design Kit (RDK). The resulting IPTV system enables subscribers to access content and services from anywhere, on any type of device, delivered to them from the cloud.

The service also used Cisco Videoscape technology, which combines equipment within a data centre with software-as-a-service. The pilot for the project took only 50 days to complete, from conception to deployment.

Cisco claims that it proves that service providers can deploy new services speedily by combining a standard private cloud model with SaaS capabilities.

The new IPTV service additionally leverages Deutsche Telekom’s TeraStream network, a software-defined platform which it says enables simpler implementation and integration of services delivered from the cloud, including traditional telco services such as voice, IPTV and internet access.

Expected future developments: Yves Padrines, VP of service provider video for EMEAR with Cisco, thinks that while much has been achieved in short order, more is yet to be done: “The speed and efficiency of this deployment are testament to the benefits of a software-driven, cloud-powered networking approach,” he says. “With this we have achieve a number of firsts for the service, and we look forward to our continued work with Hrvatski Telekom to prove the capabilities of cloud.”

Carrier: AT&T



Technology partner: Various, including startups

Current solution: There are few carriers of what might be termed the old school who have approached the challenge of SDN with quite such root-and-branch determination to change as AT&T. In 2013 it started to announce details of its so-called Domain 2.0 vision.

AT&T has already started deploying SDN and NFV technologies as part of establishing a radical next-generation network. It has identified six “beachhead” projects to move the company forward and create a “user-defined network cloud”.

This will end up as a multi-service, multi-tenant platform that taps into NFV and SDN to perform a broad variety of network functions and services. It has declared that its infrastructure must in future be open, simple, scalable and secure.

It has also made clear that this openness means that it will be working with a number of new vendors, many of them from outside the traditional community of telecoms equipment builders and vendors.

Expected future developments: AT&T has made clear that the future of Domain 2.0 is all about collaboration, and a commitment to “stay open to new ideas and maintain a competitive process”. It says the whole initiative is more than just a network design change, but a change in how it does business with suppliers as well as how it manages platforms, systems and software. That AT&T has signalled such a major cultural shift will offer hope to many carriers with a decades-old legacy.