What’s Next for Networks: Interconnection, NaaS and Edge Services

The time has come for network service providers to realize the vision of digital transformation

Jim Poole
Ron Leibfreid
What’s Next for Networks: Interconnection, NaaS and Edge Services

Is your network evolving for a digital-first future?

Digital transformation has been a major topic of discussion for years. However, despite being part of the solution value chain, networks themselves haven’t yet transformed. But now, the time has come for network service providers (NSPs) to realize the vision of digital transformation for the network too. Service providers can no longer rely on the traditional value-creation model of building a product or service to solve a “now” problem; instead, they need to build capabilities that can solve an unbounded set of problems. MPLS, carrier Ethernet and business broadband services are slowing or declining, while interconnection, Network as a Service (NaaS) and edge services are growing. As-a-service providers have stepped in to meet increasing demand for flexible, on-demand network services. The pressure will continue to rise for telecommunications providers—so they need to get serious about their digital initiatives, bringing their interconnection into the digital realm.

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The ghosts of NSPs past, present and future

One way to think about the evolution of the network over time is to observe the “spirits” that have visited NSPs to warn of potential dangers and point them toward progress. Consider the ghosts of NSPs past, present and future:

  • Past: In the past, service providers relied on owned, fixed assets and manual processes. Considerable effort was required to plan, build and operate a given service, but as margins were high, it wasn’t a concern. Telecom providers created inflexible methods for solving business problems. But to remain in this past would mean missing out on the opportunities afforded by technological advances and newer operating models.
  • Present: Today, most NSPs have adopted a hybrid approach that includes both physical and digital assets. They’ve implemented limited automation and launched internal digital initiatives. Some are following a hybrid public and private networking model. It’s been a great adaptation, but there are still many untapped possibilities for them to continue evolving toward a more digital model.
  • Future: The next stage in the evolution of NSPs is digital-first, where providers bring their presence to the digital edge, using public OPEX-oriented environments supported by colocation providers, public clouds and private service platforms. In the future, network services will be fully automated, providing on-demand NaaS. This future brings the prospect of faster, easier deployment of network services at a better cost.

There are a lot of reasons for this evolution. The economics of maintaining a network have changed—it’s expensive to invest CAPEX for initiatives with unknown outcomes and create inflexible, fixed methods to address each need. Digital services allow networks to move to a more granular, OPEX-based cost model. And now, scalable automation and orchestration between counterparties is possible.

Meeting the demands of the network of the future

Every NSP wants to deliver the highest-margin service—quickly and easily—with excellent quality of service for their customers. Now and in the future, providers and customers want private networking to be as easy to consume as the public internet. To achieve this, NSPs can use interconnection, automation and edge services to unlock new opportunities for network transformation. Not only that, but they’ll need to fully leverage ecosystem suppliers and industry partners.

Platform Equinix® has been built on partnerships and interconnection. We solved public peering by creating the world’s largest internet exchange footprint, and now we can apply the same principles to private networking, delivering a multiparty, neutral approach to modern networking. Networking has always been about connecting and interconnecting things, but now more than ever, NSPs are being challenged to automate access to clouds, services and last-mile providers to more efficiently distribute network resources, improve reliability and boost performance. The future model for NSPs requires being in a place where the networks already exist and using digital services like Equinix Fabric® software-defined interconnection and Equinix Metal® Bare Metal as a Service (BMaaS) to automate interconnection and host network functions. Digital services can reduce the time and resources NSPs spend on hardware and operating system deployment, support and lifecycle management—which frees up resources for operating and improving their core service offerings.

Continuing forward with the future vision, NSPs are being called upon to enable the capabilities the market is demanding—things like telco cloud, virtual network-to-network interfaces (NNIs) and multi-access edge compute (MEC).

The future is already being realized

With colocation and digital services from Equinix, NSPs can evolve to deliver automated interconnection, NaaS and hosted edge services. In fact, leading network providers have already latched onto this vision of the future. Paris-based telecommunications operator Orange Business Services, for example, has partnered with Equinix to build a fully automated telco cloud PoP architecture on top of Equinix Metal, helping Orange deliver optimized voice, 5G, CDN, SD-WAN and security services to more global markets. Colt On Demand is offering same-day activation and fully automated provisioning of its network services at a lower cost using Equinix Fabric. Verizon, announced Software-Defined Interconnect (SDI) solutions, integrating their network services with Equinix Fabric to provide automated access into their MPLS, Ethernet and public IP services.[1] And earlier this year, BT launched Connected Cloud Edge using Equinix infrastructure to transform how network and cloud services integrate, and help their customers prepare for the future.[2] These examples—and many more—are pointing toward the future of networks as they deliver more on-demand, as-a-service capabilities at the edge.

To learn more about how service providers can continue their digital transformation and accelerate innovation with Equinix, download our white paper Create a digital advantage at software speed.


[1] Software Defined Interconnect (SDI) Solutions, Verizon.com.

[2] BT launches next generation multicloud connectivity solution, BT.com, June 29, 2022.

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Jim Poole Former Vice President, Business Development
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Ron Leibfreid Business Development Senior Manager
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