This Industry Viewpoint was authored by Kailem Anderson, VP of Portfolio and Engineering, Blue Planet, a division of Ciena
The shift to remote working and our increasing reliance on the cloud and digital services have fueled significant changes in the way enterprises demand connectivity and consume bandwidth. More businesses across a variety of sectors require high-speed, always-on connectivity for a greater range of services – everything from video conferencing and HD video streaming, to cloud-hosted business applications, augmented reality and industrial automation.
Cloud and virtualization
To address our digital-everything world, communications service providers (CSPs) are investing in a variety of software-centric technologies, including very dynamic and reconfigurable transport (SDN), overlays (SD-WAN), RAN (5G cloud RAN) and cloud-native NFV. However, their legacy operations environments and network architectures present significant challenges to adoption. Traditionally, network domains and operational processes are tightly coupled, which means that all new network elements and services must be integrated with BSS and OSS. Furthermore, many operational processes rely on manual intervention, and skilled technicians must access the BSS and OSS to design, activate and assure services.
This incurs high costs, results in a very slow time to market, and limits a CSP’s ability to efficiently scale to meet demand. Furthermore, these legacy constructs cannot support cloud-based business models, on-demand services, and new technologies like 5G – all of the things we’re seeing emerging in our new normal.
NaaS for today’s digital lifestyle
What’s needed is an approach that supports our world today, as well as enabling efficient scale and agility to meet long-term business goals. Implementing network-as-a-service (NaaS) can help CSPs meet today’s requirements. It can also help them prepare for the future with a standards-based framework for service lifecycle automation in a closed-loop, accelerating the realization of a smarter digital future for businesses of all types.
NaaS offers a number of benefits. It simplifies operations, streamlines new technology adoption and service creation, and enables cloud-like network experiences such as on-demand service activation, customer self-service options, and subscription-based consumption models. Importantly, it addresses both network and operations transformation simultaneously.
In the same way that telcos evolved from analog to digital half a century ago, and then to all-IP in the ‘90s, cloud, virtualization and automation – all of which are components of Naas – are the current industry game-changers. The perception by some CSPs that NaaS is only a futuristic concept, or that it only applies to virtualized services, is therefore misplaced. While NaaS is, indeed, a ‘future state’ vision for CSPs, many are already using it in production environments today.
In fact, many CSPs have already adopted NaaS to drive operational efficiencies, consolidate siloed operations, cut costs and boost customer service. And there’s much more to come as adoption continues and NaaS is extended network-wide: in the future, it will enable things like autonomous, closed loop networking with proactive self-healing and self-optimizing capabilities.
The demand is also very much here today. According to a report released earlier this month, a growing number of businesses are adopting – or looking to adopt – NaaS solutions, in response to Covid-19.
Leveraging NaaS, the average proportion of IT services consumed through subscription-based offerings will rise by 41% within 24 months, according to the report, from 29% today. The number of businesses using primarily subscription-based solutions will rise by roughly 74% in that time. Furthermore, half of IT decision-makers based in the EMEA region said they’d be looking into new subscription models for both hardware and software, as a result of the pandemic. The benefits to enterprise end-users are clear. Services can be flexibly ordered and scaled on-demand, and usage-based pricing avoids long-term contracts and allows them to closely align their network spend with their actual business needs.
Accelerating service innovation
The fact that NaaS leverages open APIs is also crucial. NaaS aligns with open source approaches and frameworks – such as those championed by the Linux Foundation’s ONAP, TM Forum’s Open Digital Architecture and MEF’s Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) – providing an alternative to traditional, more rigid BSS and OSS architectures. This allows CSPs to pick and choose best-of-breed components with plug-and-play deployment. A CSP could, therefore, build a network architecture that uses repeatable orchestrations which serve as component ‘building blocks’, allowing the CSP to introduce new services in days rather than months.
These same principles streamline and accelerate the introduction of innovative, on-demand digital services. While traditional service creation projects require a lot of custom, ‘one-off’ development, NaaS allows the reuse of the constituent elements of an existing service in a building block approach. Additionally, industry-standard open APIs can be re-used within the CSP’s environment, as well as to communicate with partners and customers. This allows services that combine any mix of organic and partner-provided cloud and network services, with a high-degree of customer visibility and control.
The next stage in telco evolution
As CSPs navigate current and future service demands, they stand to benefit from real-time resource visibility and control. This will enable them to rapidly and consistently deliver the digital experiences end users require with high-availability. This is particularly important as remote working and always-on digital service consumption is now the norm. CSPs can be even more prepared by rethinking their network architecture to create a modern and scalable environment – all possible with NaaS.
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