In response to growing customer expectations, service providers are changing the way they think about networking.

Emerging services like 5G and ultra high definition video will require more bandwidth, speed and agility than many networks can currently support. Service providers are realising that the ways they have operated networks up till now are no longer going to be enough.

In response, they’re beginning to move functions that have traditionally been performed in centralised data centres to the outer layers of the network. This enables them to operate networks more intelligently. Traffic can be kept closer to users, meaning that the services are faster and make more efficient use of capacity. Meanwhile, key management, control and security functions can still be operated centrally.

It’s a great idea. So it’s not surprising that there’s growing interest within the industry in this type of approach. The difficulties start to arise, though, when we think in detail about how it will work. Things become very complex, very quickly.

Navigating a multi-vendor environment

Supporting data centre functionality in outer network layers involves using technologies like segment routing, model-driven telemetry and network function virtualisation to build networks in new ways.

If this is done well, the result will be a network that can be operated in a more efficient, simplified, and automated way. But the underlying infrastructure is likely to be complex. Networks are inevitably large and diverse. And service providers won’t be building new architectures from scratch – they’ll be adapting what they have already. This will lead to hybrid structures where new technologies are combined with pre-existing equipment. And these will grow and adapt over time to meet new demands and incorporate new developments.

So in future, service providers are increasingly going to be running networks as complex ecosystems that combine lots of different software and hardware solutions – almost certainly from different vendors. It’s a journey that’s worth undertaking, but it’s not an easy one. To get where they want to be, providers will need the support of a trusted partner.

A strong partnership

Cisco developed many of the leading technologies that will help service providers create the network structures of the future. We created segment routing, which enables traffic to travel through the network more efficiently, and our application-centric infrastructure (ACI), which automates processes to enable data centres to operate more simply. There’s no doubt that we understand cutting edge technology and how to use it to create a dynamic network.

But this isn’t just about us. We understand that the networks of the future will involve collaboration and complexity. And we have the expertise to help you bring technology from different vendors together holistically into a unified architecture.

You don’t have to take our word for this – just take a look at how we work. In our ACI technology, we use open APIs to integrate solutions from different vendors. And we’ve played a leading role in the open source CORD (Central Office Re-architected as a Datacentre) project, designed to help service providers build data centre capabilities in the outer network layers. CORD initiatives like M-CORD, its 5G mobile solution, are specifically designed to integrate technology from different vendors.

“M-CORD demonstrates how virtualisation, slicing and mobile edge computing can enable solutions built out of many disaggregated components,” said Guru Parulkar, the executive director of the Open Networking Foundation, last year.

Through our involvement in projects like CORD, we’re experienced in working collaboratively on cutting-edge networking technology. And we can build on this experience to bring together many different solutions into your distributed network architecture, thinking strategically about key issues like security from the very start. Together, we can support the agile services of the future.

Find out more about how to create a dynamic, agile network with Cisco’s data centre solutions



Philippe Tubello

Manager, Systems Engineering

Global Service Provider - EMEAR