Why You Need A Neutral Aggregator for Your Network Modernization

How SDN-enabled network as a service (NaaS) allows you to build the network you need

Don Wiggins
Why You Need A Neutral Aggregator for Your Network Modernization

The benefits of “as a service” (aaS) are generally well-understood –commoditized technology resources that can be spun up or down as needed and billed accordingly are faster to provision and less costly. However, with many providers claiming to offer aaS, the differences and associated value may be less clear. For example, if a network service provider (NSP) has a portal where their customers can request provisioning of an MPLS circuit, is that network as a service (NaaS)? Probably not, especially if it feeds into a manual provisioning process that can take months to complete. But what if the portal offers a way for customers to provision a virtual circuit on-demand with the click of a button? That is more like the aaS model that cloud service providers (CSPs) have made popular.

The challenge with this approach is that it is limited to a single provider who may not be in the location you need to connect to. That means you would have to provision some circuits with one carrier and provision the remaining circuits with another carrier – all with separate deployment and billing processes! In this context, it’s easy to see how an agency can end up with hundreds of different networks that quickly become an accounting mess.

Now imagine a slightly different approach where no particular service provider tries to be all things to everyone but rather focuses on its core competencies. At the same time, it subscribes to a software-defined relationship with other service providers that collectively represent a loosely defined “service-chained” digital ecosystem of providers. If these providers then agree to integrate and enable their services on a carrier-neutral platform such as Platform Equinix®, it allows the customer to have a one-stop shop for any digital service they may need. The platform effectively becomes an equitable broker that customers can leverage to procure and deploy local, regional or global digital infrastructure in hours versus weeks, months or more. The brokerage consolidates billing for all service provider participants and provides the customer a single bill that is appropriately distributed across each provider in the solution.

SDN-Enabled Network as a Service is an Effective Solution for Government Agencies

The extended utility, mission agility and cost-effectiveness of SDN-enabled NaaS solutions are more application-centric and have an application programming interface (API) integration to help customers connect to a variety of digital services.

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Legacy networks weren’t designed for modern missions

Federal agencies generally need to connect one or multiples of five things – people, locations, data, clouds and applications. To address this, traditionally an agency would approach a Tier 1 network provider for an estimate. Once agreed, the provisioning process could take weeks or months to complete, by which time the requirements could have changed. Those networks could be in place for a year or 30 years and were typically designed to connect point A to point B at a specific capacity. If traffic exceeded capacity, the agency would need to purchase a new pipe or add capacity.

Static point networks like that don’t support modern digital infrastructure which needs to adapt dynamically to different workloads. For example, you may need a lot of capacity at 7:30 am on the East Coast when everyone is logging into their email simultaneously but then that traffic drops by mid-day. Or you need a lot of capacity when running nightly backups.

Applying intelligence to your network with software-defined orchestration

Software-defined orchestration brings visibility to all of your network resources. It not only helps you discover all the pipes you have (say three big pipes and 20 small pipes), but it’s also workload and application aware. Now, through policies, you can define when and where to apply that capacity – for example, use one big pipe in the 7:30 am email rush and then switch it to a smaller pipe later.

Benefits of a neutral aggregator

Static point networks don’t support the requirements of modern digital infrastructure which need to adapt dynamically to different workloads."

Software-defined orchestration also enables you to rapidly price and order the network you need via a portal comprised of all the digital services you may need. With software-defined interconnection such as that provided by Equinix FabricTM, you can dynamically provision services from two or more clouds, networks or data centers to construct the digital infrastructure you need to support your mission.

The travel industry provides a good analogy, where travel agents act as the “brokers” for your trip planning. You would lean on their expertise and relationships with various travel service providers such as hotels, airlines or car rentals to assemble a trip. The agent would also help you with the rules of engagement – for example travel visas. This scenario has largely been digitized with aggregators like Expedia and Kayak that provide you with a one-stop shop to book everything you need for your trip (hotels, flights, cars) within minutes from a single portal. While each service provider (Hilton, Marriott, Delta, United, Enterprise) continue to compete for your business directly, they’ve also agreed to make themselves accessible via an ecosystem of similar providers to expand their market reach. The aggregators are responsible for ensuring that service providers meet a minimum service level and comply with regulations to participate in the ecosystem. The benefits of this are clear – you can easily find the best service for the best price to plan your trip at the click of a button. If you need to make changes or cancel later, you just need to visit one place to get that done.

With software-defined interconnection such as that provided by Equinix FabricTM, you can dynamically provision services from two or more clouds, networks or data centers to construct the digital infrastructure you need to support your mission."

This is an apt description of Platform Equinix, which provides automated access to 1,800+ networks and 2,900+ cloud and IT services. Many of these service providers have permanently integrated their offerings with Equinix Fabric, so you can intuitively interconnect with one or more of them via software-defined interconnection across Platform Equinix. This includes NSPs such as Verizon, AT&T, Cisco, Unitas Global and Colt, as well as CSPs such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud and VMware. This allows providers to participate on equal footing in a collaborative, digital ecosystem of providers that can collectively deliver comprehensive, cost-efficient services to achieve your desired end state. And that’s a win-win for all.

To learn more, download the white paper “SDN-Enabled Network as a Service is an Effective Solution for Government Agencies” and schedule an interactive virtual Digital Edge Strategy Briefing.

Aggregators like Kayak provide you with a one-stop shop to book everything you need for your trip within minutes from a single portal. Platform Equinix does the same for digital services, providing automated access to 1,800+ networks and 2,900+ cloud and IT services."