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Carrier SDN: Creating networks as agile as the cloud

Operators need more agile ways to deliver network services if they’re to fully realize the benefits of cloud computing, Internet of Things, and other innovative services. And many see carrier software-defined networking (SDN) as the way forward.

Enabling carrier SDN

Most of us know that remarkable gains in creating and deploying new services efficiently and at scale have been made in the cloud computing community. But in the network operator community we also know that a significant impediment to delivering new services with the agility of the cloud is the rigidity of the networks we deploy and the processes we use to define and instantiate the services.

Vendors have expended a great deal of effort in recent years to enhance network flexibility. Solutions have begun to appear that address parts of the problem, but they’ve typically been constrained to a particular function or domain and haven’t actually solved the overall agile service delivery problem for networks.

I’ve just had the opportunity to study the new Alcatel-Lucent Network Services Platform (NSP), and believe it has attributes that will interest operators who aspire to deliver services in a new way, by enabling carrier SDN.

What it is

The NSP is a unified solution that creates agility and efficiency in network service delivery. It significantly streamlines the front-end tasks of new service creation and enhances the related tasks of running those services optimally intelligently and in realtime in a multilayer, multidomain, multivendor network. It does so in a unified and holistically designed solution.

What I liked about it

NSP breaks the logjam in network service creation between OSS/BSS and the network. It uses open RESTful APIs northbound for OSS and BSS integration and important data modeling standards and templates for network and service representation. Services and networks are represented once to multiple OSS and BSS applications, eliminating the need to define the same service multiple times to different modules so they can talk to a range of vendors’ platforms.

1. NSP associates service policies and tenant contexts with newly defined services, and applies them broadly across the target network infrastructure.

We analyzed development of a new bandwidth calendaring service by a representative operator, and discovered that NSP brings improvements over 50% in both time and resources definition compared to present modes of operation.

2. As service templates travel southbound they’re converted by a versatile mediation engine into the semantics and formats needed to work with each IP/MPLS and optical network platform being managed. This auto-conversion dramatically simplifies and streamlines the provisioning process for service offerings across network layers, vendors, and domains.

3. Communication southbound with NSP is supported by multiple important multivendor standard protocols:

  • BGP-LS
  • PCEP
  • SNMP
  • OpenFlow —future, where used

Special cases for vendor CLI support are also included for simplification.

4. NSP bridges the gap between service automation and network optimization. On-demand service provisioning becomes network-aware and makes best use of available network assets during service placement. Dynamic network optimization uses network and service health to drive changes that ensure ongoing service quality and network efficiency.

5. Alcatel-Lucent has integrated functionality derived from 1,000s of operator deployments in both optical and IP/MPLS layers to enhance NSP’s value. For example, 3 distinct path computation engines are available to meet operator requirements:

  • Packet-oriented PCE (PCE-P) for use with IP/MPLS paths
  • Optically-oriented PCE (PCE-T) for use with optical paths
  • Multilayer PCE (PCE-X) for use in multilayer path optimization

PCEs define paths in line with service policies at provisioning time, and KPIs are monitored in real time to determine if adjustments of any sort are called for as operations progress.

6. Alcatel-Lucent has incorporated unique and innovative algorithms for resource optimization. For instance, self-tuned adaptive routing for LSPs helps the network adapt allocations in real time according to policies and service delivery needs, producing further efficiencies and revenue-generating capacity.

The NSP provides a missing link in solving the wide area network agility problem, by leveraging the benefits of carrier SDN. Service providers will be interested in how its combination of functions has the right attributes for turning WANs into agile service delivery platforms. And it’s likely to be a major contributor to many operators looking to make their networks as agile as the cloud.


Network Services Platform web pageBuilding networks as agile as the cloud white paper

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Paul Parker-Johnson

About Paul Parker-Johnson

Paul Parker-Johnson leads the cloud and virtual system infrastructures practice at ACG Research. His work explores transformations under way in SDN, NFV, cloud computing and service orchestration in service provider environments. Use cases from data center to core, metro, access and customer premises are engaged. New architectural developments and implications for vendor and operator designs are analyzed. Syndicated research analyzes market developments, forecasts market sizes, and evaluates market shares of participating vendors in key product categories. Custom research and analysis helps clients evaluate plans related to these transformations, and implement their offerings in the market. Prior to joining ACG Mr. Parker-Johnson led Juniper Networks’ cloud computing solution business enabling end-to-end cloud offerings for service providers and enterprises of multiple sizes and scale.

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