A Great Leap Forward

Evolutionary biologists talk about features that suddenly seem to burst forth and enable stunning new capabilities for life forms in the natural world. Eyes. Legs. Flight. And right now service providers have at their fingertips many new operational features that can help them become more agile purveyors of better, faster, and cheaper services. It’s no exaggeration to look at Software-defined Networking (SDN), Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), and other new, evolving technology approaches as part of a groundbreaking, evolutionary leap forward.

Service providers are not alone in embracing solutions that provide greater service agility. A 2013 Gartner study that asked enterprises to list their primary driver for cloud services found that 66% of enterprises ranked agility and service velocity above cost savings and other factors.

Understanding How and When to be Agile

The cheetah is agile. So is the dolphin. Each of these creatures must make careful choices when using their agility (e.g., fight versus flight). Their very survival is at stake.

So it is with service providers, who must apply agile service creation resources to quickly address changing market demands. This should mean not only looking at agility from an internal operational perspective but from the perspective of customers as well. For example, is the fast turn up or turn down of services a competitive advantage? Do given service features meet customer expectations or are other features necessary? How do customer requirements impact the provider’s bottom line?

Trends in mobility, video, M2M applications, and cloud services provide an array of service revenue opportunities. Again, providers should look at using their agile service creation environments to promote new services and business models while keeping both operational factors (e.g., the ability to increase capacity on demand, avoiding overbuilding and underutilization) along with customer requirements (e.g., maintaining quality of service and competitive pricing) top of mind.

Orchestrating for Agility

Programmable networking, virtualization, open source software, and standard APIs help create a more agile infrastructure. An orchestration solution automates multiple processes to enable the infrastructure to adapt in near real-time to increasing or decreasing service demands. So it too is another facet of greater agility, simplifying complexity and thereby helping providers to be more nimble.

Look for an orchestration solution that provides a repository that defines and catalogs network functions simply. It should also have service profiles and policies that can be used for new service creation. The orchestration structure should be able to respond to business requirements for each service, providing the appropriate instructions to instantiate a new service. Simple bi-directional interfaces to other layers and elements are preferred over complex APIs. You should be able to assemble or enchain in the right order all network functions—physical and virtual—to meet the needs of higher level applications and services. Workflows, provisioning, and configuration of tasks associated with relevant network functions should be automated. Finally, automated management tools and processes should be controllable for optimal operations.

The Paradigm Shift

With agile environments, the old days of building up expensive infrastructure ahead of perceived demand is over. The new operating model is the near real-time response to demand, driven by programmable networks with optimized virtual and physical infrastructure, all orchestrated at a high level with automated processes. It’s a new world of efficiency. But agility alone isn’t the key to success. Service providers must pay attention to the needs of customers in a competitive climate, balancing their requirements along with internal operational cost efficiencies, to thrive in a hypercompetitive, ever changing marketplace. Unlike the theory of evolution, provider environments don’t have the luxury of chance and accident.

For more on the topic, read and share this new brief whitepaper.


Wayne Cullen

Senior Manager, Service Provider Architectures