Communications Service Providers (CSPs) face some of the toughest challenges for building out the networks that connect all of our personal and enterprise devices, and as momentum would have it, the challenges are building with advances in technology. We all know technology is supposed to make like easier right? But when it gets unwieldy, that’s when we often throw up our hands and wish for simpler days, until we find a way to go with the change and manage. This narrative runs deep with CSPs. They have seen an explosion in the number of devices and their mobility (both mobile devices and virtual machine dynamics actually), and then there are the unexpected surprises like being the delivery vehicle for hit services like Netflix. CSPs got more and more piled on them and were seriously starting to struggle to manage and scale at the same time. Everyone in the industry knew it was time for a change, and when SDN hyped miracles started to break down over 2013 to real solutions and brass tacks, and now that NFV can almost blow out its first birthday candle, we’re starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
After hearing a lot about NFV in 2013, I guess you get it by now: Virtualization for network services is good and generally applicable. It gives us agility, cost savings, and for CSPs, also revenue opportunities when they offer their network services as a service to customers. In my previous blog of this series, I introduced Juniper Contrail and especially service chaining which is a key differentiator for Contrail among SDN controllers and NFV solutions. If you have never thought how important service chaining is to NFV or virtual networking, then imagine life without it. Suddenly you would lose all the touted cloud-era agility because you’re stuck manually routing together security, monitoring, optimizations services, etc. into your cloud. In a pure CSP’s NFV setup where the network and its services are the core business, virtualizing services and network functions without chaining, is simply unthinkable.
Virtualization isn’t the only new technology trend that CSPs are putting to work. With all the horizontally scalable computing horsepower that is now available, CSPs can also jump on the big data bandwagon. It’s hard to imagine a bigger big data task than turning a few billion! GBs of data per day into actionable information, but that is the opportunity that CSPs have. Our technology partner Sandvine makes it their business to help CSPs conquer this task, using their Business Intelligence products to help CSPs not only understand their business and traffic better, but also to use it to reduce CSP costs and create new revenue-generating services. The more you know about your Internet traffic the more intelligent CSPs can be in appealing to subscribers with new valuable services. Maybe it’s providing a premium connection for the movie-loving residential user or maybe it’s providing highly-available voice services for an enterprise customer’s call center branch. The opportunities begin to add up the more you know, and being at the center of the known network universe, CSPs have the potential to know a lot!
The way we have Sandvine integrated with Contrail, the virtualized Policy Traffic Switch (vPTS) sits right in the network. The vPTS is the inline enforcement element of subscriber service and traffic management policies – these policies are created within Sandvine’s application layer to support the service provider business requirements and provide network analytics. With the advent of NFV, Sandvine has virtualized their components to run as VMs, but the PTS sitting in-network presents a challenge to manage and scale from an NFV point of view because as traffic flows through the vPTS, it may be represented by several VMs at a time and that number could be growing or shrinking in peak or lull times (not to mention HA or maintenance situations where they may be temporarily taken down or moved). This is where Contrail service chaining comes in and abstracts how data traffic flows into and out of the vPTS by taking care of selecting and load balancing traffic across all the VMs per vPTS instance in accordance with the VMs’ roles and states.
With the deployment model, operators have more flexibility and ease in the size of their Sandvine deployment. They are elastic, they scale very small or very large, and they can automate or simplify deployments with scripts or clicks instead of truck rolls and cabling. Also CSPs can now deploy a small- or medium-sized “vSandvine” deployment as a managed service for enterprises, lower-tiered ISPs, and MVNO customers, giving CSPs another new source of revenue.
While still just a few months new, our partnership is getting amazing traction with many CSPs eager to see this in action. Stay tuned to hear about more successful partnerships like this one enabled on Contrail.