Service providers and telecommunications companies are always facing new possibilities and new challenges. And the stakes are getting higher all the time.

Developments like the internet of things, 5G, and ultra-high definition video are creating exciting business opportunities. But they’re also leading to higher expectations among their customers.

It’s increasingly expected that providers should be able to supply connections with huge bandwidths, high speeds and low latencies. And to be able to scale these up and down instantly in line with demand.

Future growth will depend on being prepared for this new reality. But supplying huge increases in capacity and flexibility puts a lot of pressure on network structures that were never designed to meet modern demands.

In order to deliver the services of the future, service providers’ network infrastructure needs to change. And one of the most important areas to consider is the changing role of the data centre.

Data centres are changing

Traditionally, most network traffic has run through a few data centres in the network core. But this model is changing. Many of the functions traditionally performed by centralised data centres are becoming dispersed across the network.

This means that a lot of traffic no longer needs to be routed through data centres. Distributed data centres supporting key network functions can take place in the outer layers of the network – perhaps even in a street cabinet. This is enabled by network function virtualisation (NFV), a technology where a network’s operations are decoupled from its standard hardware, allowing service providers to run networks with much greater agility and flexibility.

Restructuring networks so that traffic is routed closer to the network edge will be essential for service providers that want to meet the standards of emerging services like 5G. It will also be critical for supporting the growing trend for businesses like video streaming services and search engines to store their caches in outer network layers – and any other network functions that require high throughput in the data plane.

Of course, the data centre is still a crucial part of the network. But its purpose is becoming more focused on specific functions as service providers increasingly separate the control and user planes. This approach enables agile, fast services to be run from the network edge, while key elements like security and control plane functions can still be managed centrally.

The CORD (Central Office Restructured as Re-architected as a Datacentre) open source initiative, in which Cisco is a key partner, is designed to meet the needs of these new network infrastructures. It’s paving the way for the services of the future through technologies like M-CORD, a solution designed to unlock 5G innovation in open networking.

Tom Anschutz, a distinguished member of the technical staff at service provider AT&T, said last year that: “The CORD architecture combines cloud, NFV and SDN to create a near real-time network cloud for agile delivery of new and innovative services that our customers have come to expect from AT&T.”

The critical challenge for service providers

Customers’ need to access flexible, fast services is only going to increase. And service providers need to be prepared for this future.

Some providers are already using dozens of dispersed aggregation sites, where new types of data centre are built, across their network. But this is just the start. In future, we could be looking at networks that operate using hundreds and even thousands of micro-data centres.

Transforming their networks to support these trends is essential for service providers that want to remain competitive in future. But it isn’t easy. And that’s where Cisco can help.

We have both the technology and the expertise to help you grow your network in the right way. We understand that creating a more dispersed structure doesn’t happen overnight – it’s a journey that takes months or years. We can support you with advice and insight at every stage.

We understand, too, that with this type of network, managing security becomes even more of a challenge. Together, we can design a system to combat the latest threats.

With our expert guidance, you’ll be able to develop a combination of hardware and software that will meet your customers’ increasingly high expectations – now, and in future.


Find out more about how you can support the services of the future with Cisco’s data centre solutions



Philippe Tubello

Manager, Systems Engineering

Global Service Provider - EMEAR