The delivery of Web-scale IT requires Web-scale networks – that’s been the tagline from Ciena for a while now. What does it mean in terms of the mobile network?
Mervyn Kelly, Marketing Director EMEA of Ciena, said that the company has been looking at how networks can match the attributes of Web-scale IT – scale, speed, and agility.
At one level that means having networks that can automatically optimise connectivity between datacentres and cloud instances. It means being able to provide self-service capability for enterprises to be able to mix and match network applications (compression, firewall, vWAN etc) and to be able to scale connectivity up and down near-instantly. That is enabled by an open architecture that uses open APIs to abstract the network from higher level applications.
For mobile networks it means being able to connect users to content in the cloud, and cloud-based resources to one another wherever they are distributed in the network.
“To to make the mobile network Web-scale, we need to move to small cells. We already have a good backhaul solution for macro cells, so we want to maintain all those attributes – being able to reprovision the box very quickly, get it up and running very quickly – and just take that to the small cell. So we have just launched a couple of boxes that retain all the good things we do for big cells and just take it to small cells.”
Kelly’s view is that operators can take advantage of flexibility enabled in the box itself – for instance being able to scale up backhaul to support a specific local event in a network. “A small cell box is 1Gbps, but you can provision it in 1Mbps increments. The programmability gives you the flexibility, the small cell gives you the connectivity ,” he adds.
Where Ethernet switches cannot be SDN controllable, they must be controllable by the same management system. “People think SDN will be this magical panacea and be all-programmable and multi-vendor, but it must be practical ,” he says.
“Virtually of our Ethernet switches are properly SDN controllable and even if they’re not we can control them with our management systems and automate that, which gets you round the problem. It’s fine saying all my boxes are controllable but are you saying you’ve no legacy business? We’re taking a practical approach.”
Ciena, of course, addresses far more application spaces than mobile backhaul, and it is in enabling a new class of service structures for enterprise and data centre providers that Kelly sees most immediate potential for the Web-scale network. The company has a vWAN application that can signal on demand for more bandwidth, enabling clients to do things like migrate cloud instances between data centres, using just the bandwidth they require for that operation.
This sort of application delivery sits within the company’s Agility Matrix, a way of working that allows enterprises to select and deploy applications through a best-of-breed marketplace, deploying a Director to deliver the application to standard hardware.
This creates a new business model for customers, service providers and operators – a consumption based model for the end customers, and pay as you earn model for operators, where a service provider only pays Ciena when they in turn have been paid by their customer.
“Service providers have been very clued in on the network technology of NFV, but less so about what it can enable from a business case. Pay as you earn means an ROI of a few seconds, which they tend to like!” Kelly adds.
The network that can enable that is what Ciena calls the Web-scale network.