Service providers today are facing serious challenges. Developments like 5G and ultra high definition video are putting them under growing pressure to supply large bandwidths, fast speeds and low latencies.
To address this, providers are realising that they can operate their networks more efficiently by keeping more traffic in the outer network layers. This can help them provide services that are faster and more responsive to demand, by minimising the time that traffic takes to travel through the network. At this level, every millisecond counts.
And when less traffic is being routed through centralised data centres, these are freed up to focus on key control and management functions.
The advantages of this approach are clear. But to make it work, service providers will need to rethink the way they build their network. What are the key things they need to consider?
The key elements of a dispersed network infrastructure
There are many benefits to routing more traffic through the outer network layers. But moving away from centralised data centres won’t work unless you can also replicate some traditional data centre functions closer to the network edge. And creating more intelligence in these parts of the network requires more programmability.
Segment routing, which enables traffic to be routed more efficiently through the network, is a powerful technology that service providers can use to implement virtualisation. But other solutions like Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI), which allows many processes to be automated, can also play an important role.
Because a dispersed network infrastructure is all about managing traffic more intelligently and efficiently, it’s also crucial that service providers develop an end to end architecture that gives them visibility and control throughout the network. They’ll need to think holistically and use solutions like Cisco’s Network Services Orchestrator, to enable different parts of the network to work together effectively.
CORD (Central Office Re-architectured as a Datacentre)
The CORD initiative has been developed by a range of partners, including AT&T and China Unicom as well as Cisco, to help service providers introduce agile operations into the edge of their network. It’s an integrated platform that uses virtualisation and cloud technology to provide the functionality of a data centre in the outer network.
The agility that CORD enables allows service providers to meet the standards of 5G and provide flexible, on-demand services to their customers. For this reason, it will be an essential part of the networks of the service providers who succeed in future.
Transforming your network isn’t just about technology – it’s also about the people who will be managing it. Different teams manage different parts of the network, so restructuring it may mean restructuring teams, too.
This presents a challenge in several ways. Building teams with the right blend of skills may mean recruiting new staff or providing training to the staff you already have. And of course, you’ll also need to think about the impact of the changes on individuals in your company – a task that will require sensitive management.
Meeting the challenges of the future
For service providers who want to develop a more dispersed network, there’s a lot to think about. It’s a goal that will require careful planning and considerable investment – and that will take time.
It’s not a product you can buy off the shelf. It’s a journey, and that’s why it’s important to choose the right technology partner. Service providers need a company they can rely on to offer expert advice at every stage. Who can think strategically, to support long-term success?
It’s not only about implementing the right technology in the right way. It’s also about designing the network intelligently from the very start. And giving careful consideration to critical issues like security, which becomes even more complex with a dispersed infrastructure.
It’s a big challenge. But for those prepared to meet it, there will also be an equally big reward. A network that works efficiently and flexibly – and is ready for whatever the future holds.
Find out more about how you can build a dynamic, future-ready network with Cisco’s data centre solutions