Telecoms.com periodically invites third parties to share their views on the industry’s most pressing issues. Rupesh Chokshi is a leader in technology with a strategic focus for growth in global technology and telecommunications. He currently leads the product marketing team within Edge Solutions for AT&T Business which focuses on product management, strategy and business development, and is transforming services and networks using software-defined networking (SDN), network function virtualization (NFV) and SD-WAN technologies.
To help determine the state of virtualization today, Light Reading spoke with Rupesh Chokshi – Assistance Vice President, Edge Solutions Product Marketing Management at AT&T Business – and one of the industry leading experts presenting at this years’ Network Virtualization & SDN Americas event in September.
Light Reading (LR): How has network virtualization evolved in the last three years?
Rupesh Chokshi (RC): AT&T has been in the business of delivering software-centric services for several years, and we’ve seen adoption from businesses looking to update their infrastructures, increase their agility and transform their businesses. Networks are almost unrecognizable from what they used to be – data traffic on our mobile network grew more than 470,000% since 2007, and video traffic increased over 75% in the last year. Given the new network demands, companies need to adapt by changing the way they manage networks.
We took a unique approach with our infrastructure ability by using software-defined network (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV) with our own network, meeting our goal of 65% virtualized network by 2018 and setting us up to achieve our goal of 75% virtualization by 2020. At the same time we started using SDN and NFV in our own network, we utilized SDN to deliver AT&T’s first SDN service, AT&T Switched Ethernet Service with Network on Demand (ASEoD). This allowed thousands of customers to provision and manage their network in a fraction of the time it took in the past, and now enables them to scale bandwidth on demand to meet their business’ seasonality.
ASEoD was only the first of a series of solutions we are creating to address shifting network needs. Three years ago, we introduced our first global software-based solution, AT&T FlexWareSM, which uses both SDN and NFV to increase business agility by simplifying the process for dynamically adding and managing network functions.
LR: What technology developments are you most excited about for in the future?
RC: The work we did up to this point to deliver SDN within our network and for our customers set us up for the next generation of wireless technology, 5G. As the first SDN-enabled wireless technology, and the first wireless network born in the cloud, 5G will ultimately enable new use cases that take advantage of network slicing, the ability to support a high number of IoT devices and greater low-latency edge compute capabilities.
In addition, we are collaborating with VMWare SD-WAN by VeloCloud to implement 5G capabilities into our software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). This will give business new levels of control over their networks and is key for companies looking to use SD-WAN with a high-speed, low-latency 5G network as their primary or secondary WAN connection type.
LR: How can businesses move forward with virtualization today?
RC: Today, businesses need to make sense of data faster and more efficiently than ever before, which is driving businesses to evaluate how they use their network for all applications, and to find ways to maximize their resources. One-way companies can do this and move forward with virtualization is through AT&T’s comprehensive SD-WAN portfolio. AT&T’s SD-WAN technology supports this new way of working by letting companies define policies based on individual business needs using centralized software-based control.
LR: How can businesses determine the business benefits and ROI of virtualization today?
RC: Businesses can determine the business benefits of virtualization through cost savings, application-level visibility and near real-time analytics.
Potential cost savings is one of the key benefits of SD-WAN that is touted by technology suppliers and service providers alike. In our experience, it is during the process of fleshing out the technical details of the solution and how to best integrate it into their network that enterprises begin to fully appreciate where those cost benefits may come from, as well as understanding other benefits or features that may also be important to them. Keep in mind the importance of considering potential cost savings in the context of total cost of ownership, not just looking at the relative cost of the CPE vs. the cost of the network access.
Additionally, SD-WAN technology can provide more application-level visibility and control on a per site basis, and these capabilities go far to help customers assess and experience the benefits of the performance of their network access and transport.
SD-WAN also enables customers to access analytics in near real time or on a historical basis for bandwidth consumption and application visibility. This is instrumental in setting KPIs and measuring ROI and planning for future network growth.
LR: What virtualization strategies should businesses be focusing on?
RC: Businesses need to adopt efficient, high-performing networks to take advantage of the newest technology and bandwidth needs. Automation is a great example of this. As businesses require more bandwidth, we need to provide more elegant solutions in order for them to take full advantage of more ubiquitous, high-speed broadband.
Additionally, while digital transformation is top of mind for businesses of all sizes and in every industry, dynamic SD-WAN is still in a relatively early stage of growth and adoption. And for others, MPLS and IPsec remain important options. Hybrid WAN designs will continue to be popular as customers utilize multiple technologies (MPLS, IPSec, SD-WAN) for optimal results.
LR: How can businesses build these technologies into their long-term business models?
RC: We live in a digital economy, and AT&T provides fundamental platforms for businesses to grow, differentiate and innovate. We work with businesses of all sizes to help transform their long-term business models through technology solutions delivered in the form of a managed service. Customers come to us because of our expertise, breadth and depth of capabilities, global scale and innovation in areas such as software defined networking, network function virtualization, mobility, IoT and SD-WAN.
As businesses grow, they need to think about their overall networking health. And how they can use their networks to meet all their business objectives. Key considerations in bringing that to life include:
- Holistic solutions that can combine SD-WAN functionality with network services from AT&T or other providers, virtualized CPE, wired and wireless LAN, security, voice over IP and much more;
- Reduced operational expense and less need for in-house expertise with a managed solution that handles all aspects of the end-to-end solution design and setup;
- Global deployment options that remove the headaches of onsite installation and support in countries around the world; and
- Flexible SD-WAN policy management where the customer can choose to set and update application level policies themselves or rely on AT&T experts to manage this for them.
Want to deep dive into real-world issues and virtualization deployment challenges with Rupesh and other industry leaders?
Join Light Reading at the annual Network Virtualization& SDN Americas event in Dallas, September 17-19. Register now for this exclusive opportunity to learn from and network with industry experts. Communications service providers get in free!