Communications today are all about the Internet, with more and more devices and applications requiring online connectivity to function. Subscribers are demanding faster connectivity with quicker provisioning of services at lower prices. With such market conditions, scaling up operations in a cost-effective and profitable manner is a huge challenge for service providers around the world.
Software-defined networks and network function virtualization technologies are among the most talked about technologies in the networking and communications industries, although most service providers are still learning about the potential benefits of these two innovative technologies.
SDN and NFV technologies allow service providers to better control the various components of their network. These technologies allow service providers to increase the efficiency of their networks and make their existing infrastructure more functional. SDN allows a centralized control over programming of various network components, while NFV consolidates a range of network equipment through virtualization to let service providers convert single function appliances into multi-function/multipurpose devices.
Almost all of the broadband service providers, regardless of size or location, are struggling with a similar challenge. On the one hand, they would like to provide more bandwidth to customers, but on the other hand, they would like to reduce the cost of delivering the services they provide. In order to mitigate these factors, service providers should consider leveraging SDN and NFV technologies with the following strategies:
Providing more value to customers: In order to create new services and increase revenue streams, broadband service providers must find ways to move further up the value chain and transform themselves from mere connectivity providers. Providing new, specialized services is one way to offer more value to the end user and transform a network from being just carrier-oriented to more functions-oriented.
Examples of value added services that a broadband service provider can offer enterprises include firewalls, encryption, caching virtual private networks, service monitoring voice over Internet Protocol and more. With NFV and virtualization, these value-added services can be added onto switching components using virtual machines.
Leveraging the cloud: As more services move to the cloud, broadband service providers have the opportunity to leverage the growth of the cloud and to offer more value to end users in this aspect as well. SDN and NFV technologies can be deployed to offer more security within the network and support more tunnel mechanism to data centers.
SDN, in particular, offers more control of the network through its centralized approach to network management, helping service providers offer a more robust solution to moving valuable data in and out of the cloud. Broadband service providers can leverage NFV to install security applications like anti-malware, data loss prevention, firewalls and remediation measures for advanced persistent threats on network components and offer more protection for data transmitted on the network.
Lowering operational costs: Whether setting up a home gateway or setting up a workplace network, configuration of the network can be done remotely with the help of NFV. Service providers will no longer have to send someone to the physical location for installation or maintenance. Through virtualization, providing support from a remote location can be a significant cost-saving opportunity for service providers.
Changing operations of components within the network becomes a faster, more automated, and simplified task with the help of software and virtualization. Service providers will no longer need to make significant investments in adding new physical components to their existing infrastructure, saving them considerable time and money.
SDN and NFV let service providers add new services or modifying existing services without making extensive changes to the physical network itself. They help transform the network itself into a more intelligent and IT aware entity, which offers more flexibility, elasticity and versatility.
Transitioning to SDN and NFV models for the network can take a long time to achieve for the conservative industry. Service providers will find it even more challenging to get the various verticals within their companies, as well as their suppliers and business partners, to undergo such a massive operational change. However, even if the transformation requires considerable short-term resource investment, the long-term benefits brought by network modernization will reap rewards in the form of reduced operational costs and increasing revenues.
This article was published in RCRwireless Reader Forum