Opening Up the Network

Revolutionary Transformation Doesn’t Occur Overnight 

This year, we have seen a continued shift to agile network service delivery from Proof of Concept to real-world deployments and a multi-service broadband network. Therefore communication service providers (CSPs) are under pressure to upgrade and transform their networks, pushing to support services beyond simply delivering network connectivity. With an increasing number of connected devices, CSPs are tasked with supporting these high-bandwidth applications and services with a network that offers both Quality of Experience, Quality of Service, and low latency. All while also maintaining the security of the network and systems attached to it.

They need to focus on this network transformation and bring about cost reduction, through the likes of automation and better usage of resources. Open source will be a key component in this transformation, but it is not the only component. The growing adoption of cloud technologies including Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) are helping to lessen the demand placed on CSPs’ network architectures, as well as creating new opportunities for more advanced automation in the operational domain. Similarly, virtualization provides an additional opportunity for multiple common resources, such as compute power and storage, to be shared and reused between functions within the network. While virtualization of services and disaggregation are two key trends, we cannot ignore the legacy investment already made in CSPs’ networks, such as traditional access nodes serving large regions of subscribers. No one can afford to revolutionize their network overnight.

Only by harnessing the combination of both open-source software and open standards, will global players across the broadband industry be able to realize their full potential and undertake their revolutionary network transformations in a sustained and cost-effective way. Consequently, CSPs need to make sure that any network transformation initiative in one area will also interoperate with other existing platforms and that they have a clear path to interoperability with future deployments of new virtualized and disaggregated systems.

Opening Up the Network

The use of open-source technologies continues to gain traction and is here to stay. For software developers, regardless of the software they are building, open source plays a key role. It provides an invaluable framework, the foundations, or reference implementations for developers to build upon. Participating in an open-source community and utilizing that outcome can be a viable alternative to buying costly proprietary or closed source solutions. Open source allows innovation and collaboration, with the community developed and tested code, resulting in a stable, solid framework for the industry to build upon.

Open-source solutions can allow a service provider’s network to be unique and customizable, and help providers be more selective with their solutions, as well as bring renewed flexibility. However, open source alone does not provide the means to upgrading and future proofing CSPs networks and deployments. Open standards are needed that define lasting, normative descriptions and requirements of the systems, interfaces, or APIs needed by operators.

As next-generation technologies continue to increase the demand on service providers’ network architectures, cloud technologies are notably becoming an important factor for key decision-makers. CSPs are always on the lookout for new opportunities for service deployment, but must also protect their existing network investment, with user experience remaining the ultimate end-goal. The ability to confidently manage the experience of multiple users inside the home or business, across the network, to the device is critical, and the Smart Edge Devices or the Connected Home represents a huge opportunity for CSPs. They continue to vie for the most optimal ways to manage, measure and monetize these opportunities and deliver new services and applications seamlessly to their subscribers.

By utilizing cloud technologies, the decision-making process is sped up for introducing new infrastructure based on user demand, as opposed to being forced into a total replacement strategy. Therefore, CSPs can develop and deploy interoperable cloud-based access networks more easily and unlock a truly virtualized and disaggregated multi-vendor network. As operators embrace these principles to build and scale their networks, it will reduce service providers’ costs and protect their investments.

At the same time, many in the broadband sphere are looking to maximize and improve network performance unequivocally. Open standards help provide efficient and faster ways to effectively manage connected devices. Open standards provide an implementation path, and best of breed of deployment strategy from which every vendor can benefit. Without these standards, it could be a much slower migration process, with CSPs waiting for catalysts that accelerate this network migration.

Open standards therefore play a vital role in aligning the industry on migration approaches and common architecture. In addition to deploying new technologies in their networks (open or closed source), service providers should be looking to streamline the pipeline from development to test to deployment, taking principles from modern dev-ops approaches for cohesive collaboration and integration.