2014 is the year on-demand network services will align with on-demand cloud compute and storage services, to deliver a truly ubiquitous service experience for the end user.
To date, the predominant cloud services have been SaaS, PaaS and IaaS - Software-, Platform- and Infrastructure-as-a-Service, that enable enterprise IT and consumer applications and content to be virtualized and delivered from cloud provider data centers.
The network will continue to be the key ingredient that ties everything together, providing guaranteed performance to the spectrum of XaaS cloud services and a backplane across the data centers for dynamic delivery of applications.
For consumers, the cloud has finally become mainstream. The ongoing popularity of tools such as Apple’s iCloud and the close integration of cloud based services into operating systems such as Microsoft Windows 8, along with increased smartphone and tablets adoption, will confirm the cloud as an essential aspect of everyday life in 2014.
2014 will also see the ‘Telco Cloud’ emerge, enabling the virtualization of telecom services delivery and processing functions, alongside existing XaaS (anything-as-a-Service).
Operators deploy a variety of network appliances (load balancers, deep packet inspection devices, broadband access gateways and the like) each responsible for the delivery of various network functions such as wireless, broadband Internet, enterprise VPN and so on. Some of these are business-oriented while others are consumer-oriented. As a result, some are heavily utilized during the day but not at night, and vice versa.
At the moment network service providers must deploy sufficient capacity for each appliance type, for each service silo, and in each metro area, to handle the local peak demand, meaning high operational expenses and extremely inefficient use of capital assets.
The rise of network functions virtualization (NFV) in 2014 will allow the control and processing functions for these network appliances to be virtualized, allowing for each function to be grown and shrunk as necessary. Essentially giving network operators same agility, efficiency, and operational gains that cloud computing brought to enterprise IT.
SDN takes big step forward – along with NFV
2014 will be the year software defined networking (SDN) does ‘less talking and more walking’ – particularly to enhance the efficiency and new service creation promise of network functions virtualization (NFV).
Integral to a number of next generation network incubation projects in 2013, the next 12 months [will] see the next step from incubation to operation, structured within two to three year rollouts. In 2014, we also expect the ONF [will] continue to make progress on OpenFlow as the Optical Transport support in OpenFlow becomes available.
Driven by increasing pressure to improve financial metrics and deliver better rates of return, SDN and NFV will be increasingly pivotal in business proposals, both RFIs and RFPs. The SDN ecosystem will start to take shape, allowing organizations to simplify their network and improve capital efficiency and opex over the long term. More than ever, embracing open SDN and planning for its effective deployment will be integral to attaining success.
Big data becomes standard practice
Big data use will soon become widespread, turning into “The next frontier for innovation, competition, and productivity”. 2014 will become the year it becomes common practice for organizations to push for the deployment of next generation virtual private network resources that can carry such large swathes of information.
The use of mature technologies like optical and packet transmission will play a vital part in establishing the foundations of such networks over the next 12 months. The flexibility to share scale between big data users will also be supported by developments in operational virtualization, especially with the increasing adoption of common application programming interfaces (API’s) as part of a software defined network (SDN) framework.
Metro aggregation increasingly important
Over the last few years data access via mobile devices has become a mature industry, and 2014 now sees us entering a phase in many regions where high penetration rates, 3G/4G networks coupled with high data tariffs, will result in a reduction in the exponential growth rate of mobile traffic.
Instead this traffic will start to align with the underlying data growth we see in the fixed networks.
As such 2014 will see many operators starting to look at integrating their fixed and wireless metro aggregation networks into a single seamless platform, whilst building new business service capabilities to drive additional revenue. The increasing capabilities of converged packet optical platforms will allow the more advanced operators to maximize their potential with less capital, whilst driving increases in revenue.
Service providers discover new ways to unlock value
In light of the constant financial and competitive pressures, in 2014 service providers will amend their focus from purely customer acquisition and retention to innovative techniques that will unlock the value in their network.
They will need to optimize opex through modernization of their legacy infrastructures, and also fully leverage new network capabilities to offer new services while differentiating on service performance and time to market.
Only by modernizing the network can operators help enterprise customers keep up with the evolving networking landscape, and provide high quality, high-bandwidth connectivity and programmability to facilitate the cloud-based IT services that enterprises now rely on.
Government consolidation and smart grids for EMEA
Governments across EMEA are recognizing that they cannot continue to build separate networks for the various government organizations. Whilst the viability of shared networks amongst governmental departments is unquestionable, there is no denying the complexity of consolidation due to the different facets that exist within the civil service.
Despite these complexities, 2014 will see the beginning of the consolidation of such networks as schemes such as government cloud initiatives continue to take shape. This will be further driven by increasing pressures on government departments to fall into line with austerity measures and the subsequent requirement for IT services to become more efficient and effective.
An increasing number of large energy companies are upgrading their network capabilities to tie in with the demand for smart grids and other intelligent technologies. Routed networks are becoming less popular as organizations opt instead for simplified, robust, Ethernet networks.
Energy companies in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in particular are the innovation leaders in this space. Such organizations’ demand for this network technology will increase substantially across the region and other parts of EMEA throughout 2014.
David Tomalin is Ciena’s EMEA chief technology officer