Recent years have seen both a tremendous increase in network traffic and radical change in how electronic information is accessed, used and stored. The explosive growth in the use of online applications, virtualization and cloud services by an ever-expanding array of wired and mobile connected devices has severely challenged long standing assumptions and ideas about how networks should be built. Customers have become used to on-demand web portal sites to provide way to provision themselves the services that they will employ, thereby decreasing operating costs, reducing operator entry errors, and significantly increasing service uptake and velocity.
In an on-demand world you can't afford to be slow…
Despite the last twenty years’ breakthroughs in data center compute and storage, or even perhaps because of them, rising network costs remain an inescapable issue. Networking technology lags significantly behind compute and storage in taking advantage of virtualization and disaggregation, resulting rigid all-in-one designs, vendor lock-in, the multiplication of protocols, proprietary interfaces, non-deterministic network behaviour, and a very limited ability to interact meaningfully with the applications and services that use network resources. The vast multiplication of connected devices and BYOD have further complicated the issue, placing extreme requirements for flexibility in connecting these devices to network based services. These problems can significantly hamper the uptake of new services, be it in the hybrid cloud or wholly within the internal user population of an enterprise. Consequently, service providers want to build infrastructures that would as much as possible allow end users to provision themselves in an easy to use yet centrally controlled fashion. And on-premise equipment needs to be easily controlled, provisioned and managed from a central site. This is especially true of enterprise and retail environments, where PoS systems and in-store systems often are difficult to access and expensive to maintain if such maintenance requires on-site service calls.
In much the same way, by enabling such user-based provisioning, OpenFlow can be used to provide ‘virtualized Customer Premise Equipment’ to users and subscribers, in essence using the capabilities of OpenFlow for doing flow matching and substitution to emulate the functionality of an on-site network box by making a portion of an OpenFlow switch available to that customer that does that processing in the operator’s network. This in turn can be integrated with the network’s policy management function to provide different customer experiences based on service level agreements and network policies, in effect enabling multiple revenue models with the same network service infrastructure.
This approach generates savings in both CAPEX and OPEX, as well as providing a more flexible, responsive and programmable routing infrastructure far better equipped to deal with the challenges of exponentially growing numbers of connected devices, vastly changed usage patterns, and is much better able to exploit new software based solutions for network optimization.
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