Q&A: Jim Fagan, Pacnet – Reaping the benefits of SDN

19 November 2014 | Gareth Willmer


Capacity Asia day 2 – Pacnet scooped the award for best Asian wholesale carrier at the recent Global Carrier Awards 2014. Jim Fagan, president of managed services, explains how the carrier has used software-defined networking (SDN) to bolster its offering.

How has SDN progressed so far for Pacnet?
Pacnet was the first service provider to introduce a customer-facing and controlled SDN platform, in February this year. The Pacnet Enabled Network (PEN) leverages our core subsea network, which is interconnected to our regional data centres. PEN allows customers to automatically provision enterprise private connectivity within minutes, from 1Mb to 1Gb.

We have continued to be a leader in introducing SDN capabilities, with the PEN 2.0 release in July adding features such as network functions virtualisation (NFV). Our customers have gained a much broader range of flexible and innovative network topologies to meet the demands of today’s application and cloud-driven world.

What has the feedback on PEN been like?
PEN has been enthusiastically received by our customers. It has enabled them to solve complex network challenges and build high-performance, cost-effective, scalable and cloud-ready networks. One use case that has proven popular across all verticals and government entities is utilising PEN for hybrid cloud connectivity.

How has Pacnet used SDN to bolster its PEN offering?
Pacnet’s motivation for developing an SDN platform was to integrate the on-demand model into the delivery of traditional network services. And by introducing programmability into networking, SDN has the potential to fundamentally change the way networks are built, provisioned and managed. Bandwidth can be dialled up and down within minutes, which becomes particularly important for organisations making use of cloud-based infrastructure.

With SDN and NFV integration, PEN further enables hybrid cloud deployment, facilitating connectivity from enterprise-class data centres and private clouds to any external cloud vendors and allowing customers to burst workloads from one end to another through our on-demand bandwidth.

What have been the advantages of having Asia’s first SDN-based Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) platform?
Disruption in the hardware, software and data-centre markets has created amazing solutions and technologies over the past 10 years. However, networks and carriers have not kept up with this pace of change, and we believe that SDN technology has provided this opportunity.

Since the introduction of PEN, we have been able to shift from providing products and services to our customers to partnering with them to solve their business-networking needs. It has allowed us to work with customers on creating new solutions and learn in real time how we can continuously improve our offerings.

What are Pacnet’s future plans for SDN?
Our plan is to continue to introduce value-added features and services to our PEN platform. We want to integrate SDN and NFV into full-service products that provide customers with the ability to automatically connect and provision disparate infrastructure and networks. Customers will also be able to have a “one-click” deployment to Amazon Web Services (AWS) Direct Connect, with network, routing and firewalls to be fully configured and on-demand by the end of this year.

We are also extending PEN into our core transport network. Our recent network upgrade, which enables us to offer 100G across its intra-Asia and trans-Pacific network, also allows us to add intelligence to our transport network. This capability will allow us to dramatically increase our overall network resilience and automatically reroute traffic in the event of a fault.

What does winning the awards for best Asian wholesale carrier and project of the year mean for Pacnet’s business?
We are thrilled that our continuous innovation and leading position in the telecoms industry is once again recognised by the industry. We have reached many successful milestones in our business in the region over the past year, which have further strengthened our capability in better serving our carrier and enterprise customers. These awards will remind our people that we are a company that creates differentiation and that we are committed to developing better ways of meeting customer needs.