The Components of an Agile Network

Network service providers are closing the gap with new agile network services

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In a previous blog post on enterprise-network-cloud aggregation, we explored some ways in which network and cloud service providers are working closely together to support digital transformation. As the digital age got underway, cloud service providers (CSPs) innovated at a terrific pace, while network service providers (NSPs) fell behind. However, the NSP community has been hard at work attempting to close the gap and, as a result, exciting times are at hand, with new agile network services being developed at an impressive rate.

Before we examine those services, let’s reflect on the traditional enterprise network. For many years, it worked just fine. Applications and services were often centrally located within a hub and spoke topology and leveraged IP/MPLS offerings from NSPs to link users and resources together. However, with hybrid and public cloud workloads, those resources and those users are now on the move and the traditional NSP-based wide area network (WAN) is creaking at the seams. Distances between end points are too great, meaning the quality of experience and application performance can be extremely low.

The legacy enterprise network is flat, expensive to run and does not provide the flexibility and elasticity that a cloud-enabled enterprise demands. As the primary platform for service consumption, the offering from the NSPs had to change.

The new innovation cycles that NSPs are now engaged in were kicked off by various research projects in the field of software-defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV). Those modest efforts spawned the transformations that we are now seeing across the scope of NSP offerings. And, for Equinix, it means even greater partnerships with our NSP customers as they realize their new agile network services within our thriving business ecosystems.

  • SDN/NFV hubs are the focus of new networking service delivery, with a particular emphasis on distributed capabilities and service chaining. These SDN/NFV hubs are a great fit in Equinix, at the digital edge, where the internet, cloud and data center collide. Services can be deployed closer to the users, giving them lower latency and greater agility when making connections. My colleague Paul Mason recently focused on this particular topic in a recent blog about realizing the true potential of NFV.
  • Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) is the preferred architecture for remote site connectivity, and we see the NSP community bring this technology on board as they offer a suite of hybrid WAN services. SD-WAN relies on network choice, local internet breakouts and hub nodes – again a perfect fit for our environment, where offloading and aggregating network traffic are optimized due to the Equinix on-/off-ramp model.
  • Multi-cloud strategy and access to digital ecosystems are some of the new service offerings where NSPs are putting third-party interconnection at the core. Our NSPs customers are working with us, leveraging the Equinix Cloud Exchange, to deliver cloud offerings to their customer base. Our cloud ecosystem has unparalleled choice, from the global hyperscalers to the specialist-managed service providers.
  • Open source and open interfaces are the foundation for new technology developments across all NSP operations. This is a crucial step, and it means NSPs can integrate partner solutions more easily into their own offerings. As a key NSP partner, Equinix is committed to open interfaces with widespread use of SDN and the Netconf/YANG network management protocol to power our infrastructure, as well as the RESTful APIs that we open to our NSP friends so they can link their orchestration layer to our own.

At the London Cloud Expo 2017, many of the new NSP offerings were highly visible and discussed. Vodafone gave an update on Project Ocean, the multi-year transformation that is one of the largest network projects in the industry, touching over 40 separate organizations within the Vodafone group. Other operators were also promoting their new offerings in areas such as NFV and SD-WAN, including BT, NTT and Telefonica. For these NSPs and others, the future is about the emergence of agile network services being delivered in such a way that they leverage digital ecosystems, making the most of interconnection and bringing maximum value to the enterprise consumers.

And, agile networks are exactly what enterprises and services providers are enabling by leveraging an Interconnection Oriented Architecture™ (IOA™) strategy deployed on Platform Equinix™. An IOA is a proven and repeatable architectural framework that directly and securely connects people, locations, clouds and data.

While cloud services have helped to turbocharge the current digital revolution, there is no doubt that, at one point, the network services were slowing things down. However, some of the NSP developments that we see inside our Equinix IBX data centers make it clear that the cloud and network “ethos” are becoming more aligned. They may not reach total parity, given the NSP community still has some way to go. But one thing is clear: More innovation is on the horizon, and that is only good news for the enterprise.

To learn more about how to deploy an agile network using an IOA strategy, read the IOA Playbook.

 

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