Technological advances like 5G, network virtualization and edge computing are changing the way network service providers (NSPs) operate and plan for their future. Momentous developments in public IT infrastructure in the last decade have altered the competitive landscape, challenging NSPs to consider new ways to provide connectivity and digital access to their customers and partners around the world.
To compete in a market that’s defined by the speed, low cost and scalability of public infrastructure like public cloud, NSPs will have to get creative. Today, they need faster access to new markets and cost-effective ways to bring private networking to the edge. By taking advantage of automation, interconnection and edge services, NSPs have an opportunity to quickly globalize and unleash new revenue opportunities.
According to the Global Interconnection Index (GXI) 2023, an annual market study published by Equinix, service providers are forecast to consume 57% of interconnection bandwidth, with NSPs consuming the most bandwidth. Furthermore, the GXI report also shows that in today’s globally connected world, a company’s ecosystem is a fundamental part of their infrastructure. NSPs and the industries they support can’t operate in isolation; greater interconnection with other service providers can exponentially increase their opportunities to deliver new products and expand to new markets. Digital services such as software-defined interconnection, Bare Metal as a Service (BMaaS) and on-demand edge services can power NSPs into a more globally connected future.
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How the public-private infrastructure dichotomy is changing the market for NSPs
For more than a decade, cloud computing has been transforming how we work and live, resulting in significant market changes that are reshaping NSP business models and providing new revenue and market opportunities. But before we get to that, let’s look at some context on the evolving market.
The widespread adoption of public cloud has led to a dichotomy between public and private IT infrastructure paradigms. Public cloud and internet offerings provide instant gratification, point-and-click connectivity and the benefit of OPEX-based spending—all of which have made them very popular with consumers and businesses. However, public infrastructure is often a DIY approach and doesn’t offer service guarantees or service-level agreements (SLAs). In contrast, private infrastructure—such as traditional networking services like MPLS and Ethernet—offers quality-of-service guarantees on issues like network jitter and latency, but it also entails significant CAPEX investments, slower intervals and closed networks that don’t connect to everything.
For enterprise customers, adopting public infrastructure has been a beneficial, cost-effective approach for many use cases, and they want more services delivered in this fashion—which puts private network operators under competitive pressure. In reaction, service providers have increasingly sought to emulate what public infrastructure offers: delivering private networks and infrastructure at cloud scale.
Private networking infrastructure at the speed and scale of cloud
There are multiple approaches NSPs can take to expand their reach in this changing market and better serve customers around the world. If enterprise customers increasingly want cloud-like services, NSPs have an opportunity to solve that challenge and find new ways to leverage digital infrastructure and ecosystems to meet changing customer demands.
There are three capabilities available in multitenant data center environments that help make this evolution possible—all of which are available through our Equinix IBX® data centers:
- Network-to-network interfaces (NNIs)
- Telco cloud
- Multi-access edge compute (MEC)
Let’s talk a bit more about each of these capabilities.
NNIs help service providers expand their Ethernet services in new markets, driving greater interconnection. NNIs help NSPs reach global markets where they don’t currently have infrastructure. With Equinix Fabric™ software-defined interconnection services, companies can connect to hundreds of network, communication, security and cloud providers using APIs to quickly and easily set up automated provisioning. This increases NSPs’ agility and speed while reducing CAPEX as they look to invest in new technologies like 5G. Automation has been the missing piece: by automating NNIs, NSPs can connect to partners much more quickly and easily.
Using telco cloud to power NaaS
A lot of network hardware, such as routers and firewalls, has been replaced by virtual network functions (VNF) and cloud-native network functions (CNF). Telco cloud combines this virtualization of network architecture with cloud-like business practices. Right now, telco cloud opportunities are growing for NSPs, powering the Network as a Service (NaaS) offerings they deliver.
NaaS features OPEX-based fees and standard SLAs, but it can also come with its own challenges, such as coordinating multiple network functions across geographies. We know that the most efficient place to put network functions is at the edge of the network. Instead of having their own private cloud, which could put customer services far from edge locations and create performance issues, NSPs can place them in a data center next to public clouds and NNIs using a BMaaS solution like Equinix Metal™.
The Paris-based telecommunications operator Orange Business Services, for example, has been partnering with Equinix to build its fully automated telco cloud PoP architecture on top of Equinix Metal, to help Orange deliver optimized voice, 5G, CDN, SD-WAN and security services to more global markets.
Creating a pathway to MEC
Putting infrastructure in proximity to edge locations where business happens is important—and it’s becoming a higher priority for NSPs. According to the GXI report, service providers show the greatest distribution of their digital infrastructure and the largest percent of edge locations. While the majority of cabinets are in core locations, edge infrastructure is growing 50% faster. As edge infrastructure grows, NSPs need to create a path to MEC, and NNIs and telco cloud help them do that.
Because of its vast global distribution of data centers, Equinix is a great partner for NSPs to work with to deliver on-demand edge services affordably. NSPs can position MEC functionality adjacent to NNIs and telco cloud in an Equinix IBX data center and scale easily as needed. MEC opportunity will only grow in the coming years, so it makes sense to work with a digital infrastructure company that can host all of these elements of a future-pointing strategy.
Connecting NSPs so they can connect the world
Ultimately, network providers’ value to the enterprise is their ability to connect disparate things all over the world. But as the technology landscape changes, NSPs must reinvent how they deliver services. Making hybrid multicloud easier for their customers is a winning strategy—but it requires providers to think outside the box of their traditional service approach. NNIs, telco cloud and MEC present significant opportunities for NSPs to embrace interconnection and all it offers.
As the world’s digital infrastructure company™, Equinix is committed to connection, and we’ve created a dynamic digital ecosystem of enterprises and service providers where companies can interact to multiply value and reach new markets. To learn more about how the latest global interconnection trends speak to future opportunities for NSPs, download the GXI report.