The panel addressed some of the biggest questions about disaggregated networking and its future.
Here’s a summary:
What’s driving market interest in disaggregated cloud-native architectures?
“Network scalability, flexibility, and reliability are required in carrier networks,” said KDDI’s Kenji Kumaki. “Most consumers use OTT applications like YouTube, Amazon Prime, Instagram and Netflix. Traffic has been increasing every year. Carriers have to control really huge [amounts of] traffic in backhaul areas, including backhaul core, edge, and the internet gateway.”
He said disaggregated networking makes doing so possible by providing network scalability and flexibility, faster troubleshooting, as well as the ability to manage capex and opex effectively.
DriveNets’ Inbar Lasser-Raab said market drivers are evolving along with the technology itself. Originally, the need to change the economic model and cut costs were the initial drivers from a service provider’s perspective, but she sees customers’ priorities changing.
“What drives the market now is the fact that the cloud model works,” she said. “It helps scale, lowers costs, and enables multiple services to be rolled out over a single shared infrastructure. That’s what drove the market to begin with.
“But what we found out in the last few years is that the ability to innovate much faster is the main driver. When you move everything to software, you can run multiple networks and services over a shared physical infrastructure. That allows innovation to go out much faster. Adding more services and rolling them out much quicker is what really appeals to service providers today. Competition is fierce, and the fact that the network and the infrastructure are so agile is what appeals to service providers.”
Where does disaggregated networking “fit” in today’s telco networks?
John Laban said disaggregated networking has a place in every part of the network but notes “it’s a new technology and telcos are very wary of making changes. They tend to stick with what they know.”
He recommends that operators first identify where their major benefits will come from and focus on those areas. And just as importantly, don’t try do everything at once and try to work within a community where they can get help from others.
What are the biggest challenges operators face when implementing a disaggregated networking strategy?
Anurag Shrivastava from Wipro believes the biggest challenge is defining the sourcing strategy.
“Telcos already have private networks or telco-grade networks in place which have grown over the years,” he said. “Now the disaggregation technology has to integrate with the rest of the ecosystem.”
Also, he said, working in a hybrid networking environment and delivering the end-to-end quality of service promised to the end customer is a challenge. Anurag suggests operators begin by testing disaggregation in a lab environment first to ensure the current multi-vendor ecosystem can coexist with the disaggregated network technology.
The other biggest challenge, he said, is who takes ownership?
“When the industry was dominated by OEMs, there was a single person to take ownership. With this new scenario – with software and hardware coming from different vendors, and the integration may be handled by a third party – who owns the end-to-end service quality, the acceptance testing and the integrated service quality needs to be addressed.”
Lasser-Raab agreed that the main challenge for network operators is the fact that disaggregated networking is a new model with new operational challenges compared to getting the hardware and software from the same vendor.
“When you buy software from one vendor and hardware from another vendor, and then the integration is handled by the system integrators, it’s initially uncomfortable for operators, they’re used to getting everything from one vendor,” she said.
“What DriveNets has done to help them feel more comfortable with this new model is that we took the responsibility to be that front line. We roll out new software, and we test it with the full solution and all the different hardware and white boxes. We are the first line of support. That really helped ease the concerns around that new model.”
She also cited the automation that DriveNets builds into the infrastructure as an advantage that service providers are recognizing.
“When a provider is working with multiple vendors, we have to make sure the solution operates as if it came from a single vendor,” she said. “So, we automated the provisioning and a lot of tasks that weren’t automated before and treat it as a single system. We also provided greater visibility to enable troubleshooting. That enables the new disaggregated model to be much more efficient than the traditional monolithic model. Service providers are realizing the world is moving toward a disaggregated model and they see there are great benefits to that distributed operational model.”
To Laban, the biggest challenge is the operator mindset.
“The telcos should spend some time in the hyperscalers’ data centers with the people who have developed cloud-native solutions,” he said. “It’s a revolution in so many ways. It’s key to the survivability of the telcos in the future. They need to massively reduce their costs, especially as they move into high investments of 5G buildouts.”
What are the business, technological and operational benefits of disaggregation?
Laban said it’s simple, “Operational costs are substantially reduced, capex costs are substantially reduced, and then speed of implementation. When you’re building out with cloud-native solutions, two technicians can install 3,000 servers in a day versus monolithic solutions and the high costs and lock-in you had before.”
He also said the sustainability impact – reduced energy consumption and carbon emissions – is important and will become more so as new energy policies are implemented.
Kumaki said KDDI is starting to see substantial benefits from the technology and from being able to choose from multiple vendors.
“With disaggregated routers, we can choose from any hardware or software vendors if they support this architecture. We can choose from competitive vendors, including the existing router vendors, and are able to reduce our capex. We have more options to choose from, which is good for carriers.”
How has and will disaggregation evolve?
“Software creates incredible agility in networks,” said Laban. “It’s an inevitable thing that’s happening. It’s profound and exciting. The telcos that move into these software-defined solutions will be the winners in the future”
Kumaki predicted that, from a carrier network perspective, disaggregation in networking will accelerate in the 5G and next-gen 6G eras.
“Carriers have put telco, OTT and public clouds in carrier production networks. Clouds will be more distributed than now and will be available in major and minor cities, reducing network latency and increasing the network’s ability to handle traffic from voice, video and gaming.”
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