A large-scale networks movie you say? What? With the stolen plans to the Empire’s super weapon in the hands of the rebels, there is still a number of lessons to be learned from the galaxy far far away…for networks.
Lesson 1 – Surging demand for bandwidth
Just as the Empire expanded its iron grip across the galaxy with more and more systems coming under their control, so also service providers face the challenge of exponentially growing traffic. Under the growing weight of data traffic, service providers networks struggle with increasingly high rates of traffic, and will continue to grow with higher bandwidth consumption. According to “Sandvine’s 2023 Global Internet Phenomena Report”, it shows that global internet traffic volume increased 23%, due in large part to surging streaming video usage and continued growth in traffic across app categories, including gaming, cloud, VPNs, marketplaces, and conferencing.
Lesson 2 – Monolithic Infrastructure Limitations
“That’s no moon,” declared Obi Wan Kenobi as the Millenium Falcon came out of hyperspace near where Alderaan once orbited, revealing the massive space station structure known as the Death Star. In a far-fetched and somewhat unrelated way, service providers have relied on massive legacy networks running on traditional monolithic chassis for over 30 years. Monolithic networks with the chassis-based architectures required for scaling, results in significant vendor lock-in, leading to slowed innovation and high costs.
Furthermore, with traditional networking solutions supporting massive network infrastructure, service providers face the dilemma of either selecting a device optimized for their immediate capacity requirements, which would need a costly rip-and-replace to scale once the chassis fills up, or installing a much larger device that has longer life but often remains underutilized.
Lesson 3 Legacy network infrastructure face operational challenges
Just like the rebels found a critical weakness to exploit in the massive Death Star, with the monolithic chassis-based network infrastructure the whole system can be brought to a stand-still when there are network problems. Network complexity blinds operators when they need to increase capacity, launch a new service or fix a network issue. They are built with a cumbersome hierarchical structure that leaves the operations team nervous about any required maintenance activities or changes – even those within a scheduled maintenance window. Network operations teams work under the influence of “network outage anxiety.” They know that even brief downtime could affect millions of users and in some cases be life-threatening – for which they could be fined heavily.
“You must unlearn what you have learned.”
– Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back
Lesson 4 – DDC – A New Hope
With the appearance of Luke Skywalker, a new hope came to the galaxy after years of darkness and oppression under the Empire. Likewise, after 30 years networks haven’t changed much, just building a larger monolithic chassis that grows bigger and bigger and needs to be replaced every three to five years. The cost of the network scales up with the actual demand.The costs are higher and service providers just need to pay or spend extra money every time there’s growth of capacity and that’s not a viable solution anymore. Service Providers need to find an alternate solution.
The good news is that a new open architecture – the Distributed Disaggregated Chassis (DDC) – has been designed to address most issues facing service providers. Defined by the OCP (Open Compute Project), DDC brings an alternative to the traditional chassis-based routers, built on discrete, interoperable, multivendor components, that operators can mix and match to achieve an efficient network infrastructure. The basic concepts of DDC include:
- Network processor-based, distributed high-capacity forwarding (the “packet unit” equivalent to the line card)
- Scalable control-plane functions – separated from user plane functions – often running on a general purpose x86 CPU (the “control unit” running protocol operations and maintaining system functions)
- Interconnection between elements using a deterministic fabric (the “fabric unit” cell-based, deterministic, and input-queued)
- Highly interoperable, standards-based optical connectivity
- Modern NOS (Network Operating System) software – like DriveNets Network Operating System (DNOS) – container- and microservice-based, which provides standard routing protocols, operational interfaces, and full lifecycle of each component
“This is the way.”
– Din Djarin, The Mandalorian
Lesson 5 – Shared Infrastructure
By transforming off-the-shelf white boxes into an orchestrated shared resource over which network functions are installed in a container, SPs can operate any function through a single command-line interface (CLI), just like a classic router. This familiar environment “wrapping” the new disruptive solutions helps service providers to build confidence from within.
DriveNets Network Cloud is just such a solution. A cloud-native, software-based networking solution, DriveNets Network Cloud supports multiple networks and services over a shared disaggregated infrastructure with virtually unlimited capacity and scalability. DriveNets Network Cloud offers a networking solution that enables service providers to deploy any network function using a more agile and flexible architecture. This reduces the cost of growing network traffic without compromising network performance and availability.
May the Force Be With You … Always
The ultimate lesson from all these examples is that it isn’t enough to use lightsabers and the Force, starships and blasters (or an endless supply of Stormtroopers). Taking a new, disruptive approach to building networks is key.
While in the “Star Wars” universe, technology serves as the foundation for building an empire, yet for the world of high scale networking needs to consider applying technology that lowers the burden on network operations – overwhelmed by near exponential data growth and expensive monolithic device.
To unleash the power of the Force, er, I mean, the network, operators should seek out and adopt an easy-to-use, disaggregated, distributed networking infrastructure solution that can enable service providers to support much greater agility in addressing evolving networking requirements.
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NCNF: From "Network on a Cloud" to "Network Cloud"