Cablecos and telcos will spend 2018 virtualizing, automating and moving everything possible to software as they optimize their networks to cost-effectively deliver high-speed, reliable broadband services to residential and enterprise customers.
The need for speed is not new, but businesses are placing more value on reliability, Jeff Lewis, vice president of Data Product Management at Comcast Business , told Broadband World News via email.
"It’s not enough to just have fast service, it has to be reliable. End users and customers using corporate networks have come to expect five nines reliability. As more organizations turn to software-defined infrastructures and run more hosted applications and operations on their networks, the need for stability and reliability will become the paramount feature required by customers," he said. "And 100 gigabit Ethernet will replace 10-gigabit as the new standard for 'ultra-high performance' networks. Enterprises... will move quickly to deploy 100 Gbit/s speeds in order to gain better reliability and performance to support back-end business operations, as well as a strong focus on providing customer-facing offerings such as free Wi-Fi."
For its part, CenturyLink is investing in higher bandwidth options that deliver 100Mbit/s "and beyond," said Pasha Mohammed, senior vice president of product development, Network, Cloud and Managed Services at CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), in an interview. Other high-speed technologies on its agenda include fixed wireless access; enterprise metro Ethernet; NG-PON2 and vOLT for more cost-effective ways to access FTTx deployments; virtualized OLT functions to drive open ecosystems and efficiencies, plus software-defined networks and network functions virtualization of "as many network functions as we can," he said.
To ensure reliability, providers are accelerating their investment in automation, SDN and SD-Access solutions, and virtualizing many former hardware-dependent processes. Last year, many operators trialed or deployed small implementations; in 2018, expect larger, more impactful installations.
"Everything that can be software based will be software based," Mattias Fridstrom, chief evangelist at Telia Carrier told BBWN. "We need to be far more automated and data driven than ever before. While self-service for customers is not a new thing, it has not yet been fully implemented and used in our carrier industry. There are still technical barriers to overcome and financial risks to be discussed, but during 2018 we will definitely see more of this."
Deployment of SDN, including wide-area networks (WANs), will grow throughout the year, Mohammed said. Last year, CenturyLink introduced its SD-WAN solution in response to the explosion of connected devices and applications in the cloud and the subsequent demand for more control and flexibility to control those applications, he said. And that requirement will only continue throughout 2018, he said.
"SD-WAN brings SDN technology to the network edge," said Mohammed. "This allows for enterprises to create secure private networks over a mix of public and private infrastructure, as well as dynamically adjust their bandwidth needs in real time."
More traffic will be managed at the edge of the network versus the core, said Telia Carrier's Fridstrom.
"At the same time, the network core will assume even greater importance if the full potential of edge computing is realized. It is really only when vast amounts of data at the edge are combined with the vast data crunching resources in a well-placed core data center that the full potential is realized," he said.
Although providers will offer enterprises more management tools for their networks and clouds, cablecos and telcos expect managed services to generate more revenue and closer ties to customers. Taco Bell, for example, signed on for Comcast Business' managed services for its more than 6,200 retail and corporate locations, said Lewis. And that's a model Comcast Business expects more large organizations -- as well as small and midsize shops -- to adopt this year, he said.
"As more companies increase their number of remote sites and branch locations, they will see the value in not having to manage and maintain business services, as well as the complex networks supporting them, when connecting widely distributed enterprises," Lewis noted.
Cloud, distributed networks and the array of available services -- such as security, storage and analytics -- fuel both a desire to tap providers' expertise and a need to include input from across a client's multiple business units and executives, said David Ohrn, assistant vice president of Hybrid Cloud Solutions at AT&T Business, in an interview. No longer the sole purview of the CIO or other IT professional, these decisions now involve several people, he said. But one thing remains constant: Ensuring value for customers' investment. (See Building on Broadband: AT&T Cloud Melds AI, Security, Data.)
"You have multiple leaders across many different companies who have certain agendas and business drivers they have to meet," said Ohrn. "Just being able to get a view of what your utilization is in those cloud environments and continually to optimize that cost structure is going to be critical, and that's where companies are going to continue to look for insight and help on."
— Alison Diana, Editor, UBB2020. Follow us on Twitter @UBB2020 or @alisoncdiana.