Adtran makes case for SDN, NFV for service providers

Robert Conger, vice president of carrier strategy at Adtran

Robert Conger, vice president of carrier strategy at Adtran

HUNTSVILLE, AL – Adtran used the opening of its Broadband and Business Solutions Summit to make an impassioned case to its service provider customers that the need to embrace new network technologies – software-defined networking and network function virtualization in particular.

Held at its headquarters campus here, B&BS brings together a few hundred of the networking vendor’s customers – primarily service providers – to network and hear from the vendor on where it sees the market going. In a world where “over the top” content is driving network traffic for subscribers – Netflix and YouTube alone account for more than 50 per cent of network traffic during peak hours, with Netflix alone north of one-third of all traffic – service providers’ networks have to adapt both for what customers are demanding today, and what they’ll be demanding in the future.

The good news, said Robert Conger, vice president of carrier strategy at Adtran, is that the cloud-centric nature of many of these over-the-top services means that SPs don’t have to invest in building out these services themselves. It’s just a matter of forging the right partnerships. The bad news is that service provider networks may not be ready for the impact this shift will have on both the content they deliver, and how the network will need to behave to facilitate it.

“Even if you work with a partner on cloud services, your network has to be programmable. Start moving that way now so that when you roll out new services in a few years, your network is ready for it,” Conger told attendees.

Along with new services, changes in customer demand are necessitating a more flexible, adaptable network. Again, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that there’s considerable customer appetite for a variety of services delivered over the network. The bad news is that if your strategy for delivering those services necessitates new hardware and lengthy provisioning cycles to deploy, you’re doomed in an increasingly self-service, instant gratification market where customers are used to quickly signing up to a new service on their smartphone or other mobile device.

“Service agility is key. Users want to activate services through portals. They don’t want truck rolls, and they don’t want new boxes shipped. To do that, you have to make the network fully programmable, and you need it in real time,” Conger said.

Although he hinted there are other ways to gain this kind of flexibility through “brute force” methods, Conger called software-defined networking the best practice on how to make it happen. SDN, he stressed, is not just for data centre users, a common assumption amongst service providers.

While SDN provides the flexibility the network needs to respond to changing customer demands, needs, and services, meeting the requirement for the ability to add or subtract services without delay comes down to a NFV approach, Conger said.

Other advice for forward looking service providers included flattening the network and eliminating as many switching points as possible between users and the content and applications they’re looking to consume and the services for which they’re looking, and to consider the role – and position – of the data centre in a service provider strategy.

“Even if I’m not a data centre operator, I need to partner with those who have those skill sets so I can expand my offerings and stay competitive against the bigger guys who have those data centres,” Conger said.