It is a disruptive time for communications service providers, and more is coming along the way. So why not disrupt it ourselves?

Service providers must contend with rising costs due to applications’ explosive bandwidth consumption, commoditization and erosion of traditional business, new business models challenging existing operational processes, tough regulation, and increased competition from non-traditional players. While capital costs are a big item on the books, the operating expense can easily be 4-5X the capex spend.

In short: Network scale and bandwidth requirements are exploding.

And as we have seen over the past years, service providers have to focus on both – lowering cost and finding new sources of revenue growth at the same time.

So, where is the good news? Pervasive video, gaming, virtual reality, digitization, enterprise IT services and IoT offer great new opportunities. The foundation for succeeding in these new markets is speed and agility in operating all aspects of the network, cloud, applications and security with service delivery velocity.

Implementing a strategy for network automation that saves OPEX and enhances velocity is essential. We have seen several technologies maturing over the past years that provide the required agility into networks that are part of this strategy.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) and its associated SDN controllers bring advanced programmability into the network. However, the technical focus initially was all about a protocol. Now, as technology continues to evolve, the discussion is shifting to operations and automation.

One of the enabling technologies to support this shift is Network Function Virtualization (NFV). NFV separates the control and user plane and allows service providers to expand into automation and manage increased network flexibility and deployment options. If you thought a physical network was tricky, think about a virtual or hybrid network, where functions can spin up at any time anywhere in the network.

SDN and NFV can help combat cost challenges while rapidly delivering capabilities for new business opportunities. However, for a full automation of the network operations, more capabilities are needed.

Cisco is complementing these technologies with Cloud Scale model-driven telemetry for real-time visibility into the network. WAN Automation Engine (WAE), Network Services Orchestrator (NSO) and EPN Manager (EPN-M) capabilities will take network automation to the next level. The foundation will be a modular software structure leveraging deep expertise in multi-domain networks to tailor technologies and drive tangible business outcomes that can be realized now. Innovation that leverages massive real-time visibility, and machine learning techniques will completely transform network operations from a descriptive to a proactive model.

However, the automation challenge will not be solved with modular integration alone. As service providers define their business cases, they will see a shift from developing and testing technology to driving integrated solutions with immediate, quantifiable business outcomes. Solutions like NFV Infrastructure (NFVI) and Management and Orchestration (MANO) automate the entire NFV stack. Virtual Managed Solutions enable service providers to deliver SD-WAN services to their enterprise customers faster. And solutions can include components from multiple vendors and best of breed open-source.

This is an exciting time, and we have many more solutions to come for network automation. Through implementing a comprehensive strategy, our customers’ network operations are experiencing a radical transformation – a transformation that can boost service velocity, with the potential to completely change the operating expense and balance sheet for a service provider now.

Service providers are seeing a tremendous opportunity to leverage and adapt their networks to serve as a digital innovation platform, building a business partner ecosystem that can deliver innovative and profitable services to their end consumers.

Cisco is the best partner in this digitization journey. By helping service providers build cloud-scale networks and services through intelligent automation, we are enabling them to create a new kind of network platform that can position them for success now and into the future.

Find more information on “The insider track for service providers” and “WAE 7.0


Sumeet Arora

SVP Engineering

Core Software Group - US