Software-defined networking makes billable service delivery profitable

4 Jul, 2017
Ross Templeton, GM of Networking at XON

Software-defined networking binds the automatic orchestrated provisioning of IT infrastructure and resources to effective, billable customer services that differentiate service providers, enterprises, and other organisations in disrupted and highly competitive markets, says ROSS TEMPLETON, GM of Networking at XON.

One of the chief benefits of the virtual, software-defined worlds of IT facilities, from servers to storage and now networking, is the ability to automate and orchestrate. Automatically provisioning virtualised and converged infrastructure is a critical asset to the service-oriented approach disrupting a world in the shadow of the cloud.

Doing so for servers and storage but neglecting networks means provisioning but neglecting intelligent access to those resources.

And that flies in the face of a fundamental driver behind software-defined anything: speed. Most of the marketing literature goes on about leaner operations and their financial benefits. But getting to market quicker means earning quicker. It means servicing customers quicker, giving them what they want quicker, and when they want it. It means being more competitive and agile in fiercer markets.

Cloud service providers are obvious beneficiaries of software-defined networking as well as anyone running their own cloud, hybrid or virtualised infrastructure as a service for their business units or customers. It gives them the means to offer services very quickly, in the quantities the business units or customers want that can scale quickly up or down depending on customer uptake, and in secure environments, without over-burdening IT resources.

Cloud services tied to customer premise equipment (CPE) is a good place to inject software-defined networking to the WAN, which allows service providers (SP) to optimise how traffic is backhauled over the network, for example routing it over least cost infrastructure, or giving priority to business-critical applications over MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) for high performance communications and redirecting less urgent traffic via the Internet.

Many SPs want to provide software-defined WAN solutions to their customers so that they can quickly deploy different types of functions, things like virtual firewalls, PABXs, or routers, all running as software on smart CPE. Traditional approaches to providing those services are not just expensive, delivering them is sloth-like by comparison.

But most companies in South Africa don’t have this full capability today. They may have elements of it, and there are many that have these elements, because they’re building up to it gradually, as they need it and rolling it out unique to their requirements.

In fact, many SPs want software-defined cloud infrastructure consisting of virtual servers, software-defined storage, and software-defined networking. It allows them to orchestrate functions via self-care portals. It enables their customers to log in to a website, choose the services they want from a list, say a firewall, virtual routers, and whatever else they want, and the system automatically provisions it for them.

SPs are using the model to provide these services to the residential market as well, services like dynamic host control protocol (DHCP), network address translation (NAT), and firewalls. These services, typically found on the today’s CPEs, are moved to the data centre which allows SPs to provide low cost CPEs at the home and centralise more advanced services. It also gives SPs the opportunity to upsell value-added services such as parental controls, antivirus and others on a try before you buy model.

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