PacketFront Software network solutions SDN Transformation

Seamless Legacy to SDN transformation

Software Defined Networks (SDN) in combination with Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is evaluated by an increasing number of carriers. This is done as a means to reduce both hardware and management costs while enabling more innovation and quicker deployment at the same time.

BECS provides Seamless legacy-to-SDN transformation thanks to its strong element management framework. SDN-controllers are handled just as easily as any other HW element. On top of that, BECS’s service automation invokes virtualized services, in the same way as traditional services. This results in true co-existence of legacy and SDN/NFV networks, without having to change the northbound integration between BECS and other OSS and BSS platforms.

What is SDN & NFV?

SDN is an approach to program the network with software using a central controller. SDN takes the control plane (how a network device will forward traffic) and separates it from the data or forwarding plane (a network device forwarding traffic based on the control-plane policy). With SDN, the control plane is on a centralized controller that has a global view of the network. This global view of the central controller, allows it to take better forwarding decision and easily implement various policies. SDN makes networks smarter, flexible and less complex.

Traditional vs SDN Architecture

Network Function Virtualization (NFV) is the concept of virtualizing network functions and applications that once run on hardware appliances. Traditionally network functions (Network Address Translation, Firewall, Load balancer) are implemented as physical devices, where software is tightly coupled with specific, proprietary hardware. These physical network functions need to be manually installed into the network, creating operational challenges and preventing rapid deployment of new network functions. A Virtualized Network Function (VNF) refers to the implementation of a network function using software that is decoupled from the underlying hardware. The software image of a network function can also be implemented in a complete virtual environment, e.g., a Virtual Machine (VM). This can lead to networks which are highly flexible and dynamic and also cut down CAPEX and OPEX drastically.

This ongoing transformation from the old hardware-dependent legacy systems to the new software-enabled trend within SDN and NFV that is changing the core of how telecom operators will operate their networks in the future.

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Why SDN/NFV – Driving Forces for Operators

All network owners must sell services. Currently the process of handling and introducing services in the networks is highly manual, slow and prone to error. So not only is there a high cost involved in actually delivering the service, but the many mistakes cause costs as well. At the same time, every network today is under a severe pressure of cutting their costs. Data usage in the networks, both fixed and mobile, is escalating rapidly while prices are going down. In order to reduce the manual work, improve the quality and cut costs, operators look for more automation of existing multi-vendor networks to achieve lower OPEX and CAPEX.

The number of services increases and the time-to-market has become much shorter. It normally takes a telecom operator months or years to introduce a new service because of all the manual labor involved, whereas a service like Netflix can be launched online instantly. In order to increase the speed, operators need new network technology, introduced in the SDN and NFV networks. VNFs can be fired up at will, and with SDN dynamic routing of traffic to these new VNFs is possible. This will reduce service deployment times for operators from months or years to minutes or even seconds. It is however important for the telecom operators that they are able to deliver the same services throughout the entire network. Otherwise they will have enormous complaints from unsatisfied customers. It is therefore very interesting for the operators if they can gradually phase out the legacy systems, and still deliver the same value to all customers. SDN and NFV are evaluated by an increasing number of operators as a means to reduce both hardware and personnel costs while enabling more innovation and quicker service deployment at the same time.

Current ways of building networks also require a lot of power. One of the benefits of NFV is that it greatly reduces the power consumption needed. This is considered to be one of the major benefits of NFV, since power is a very large cost for network owners today.

Roadblocks for Operators Considering SDN and NFV

SDN and NFV bring a completely new way of building networks. New software technology replaces hardware. This allows operators to build, plan and deploy their networks in a brand new way. But old legacy equipment still needs automation and the new SDN/NFV area lacks the automated service delivery process.

A lot of questions remain when it comes to management of SDN networks. This is even more evident when you realize that operators will have traditional legacy networks in combination with SDN networks for a long time to come. This is also the case for dedicated hardware functions and services; they will be utilized in parallel to virtualized network functions.

The old way of doing things still exists. When looking at the solutions that are brought to the market for SDN, either as commercially available solutions or as Proof of Concepts, they are all still very manual processes. The automation needed just isn’t there.

How do we manage the coexistence of legacy and SDN networks, and how do we start today when standards are not defined yet?

Invest Today in Capabilities of Today and Tomorrow – BECS

With BECS, this is straightforward. BECS is the strongest network and service management automation system in the industry. It can be used to automate almost any type of network and offers end-to-end management from CPE/CE level up to the core network. As BECS supports all major hardware manufacturers, it is especially suitable in multi-vendor environment enabling network harmonization. The BECS northbound API provides an abstraction layer, allowing OSS/BSS systems to remain agnostic for the underlying hardware infrastructure and network topology.

Thanks to the strong element management framework in BECS, an SDN controller is handled just like any other network equipment, applying the network automation engine to both legacy and SDN. BECS’ service automation invokes Virtualized services the same way as traditional services. By letting BECS manage both the legacy and the SDN parts of the network, all the service automation in BECS previously used for the legacy network becomes immediately available also for the SDN part.

Radical Changes without a lot of Changes!

This results in true co-existence of legacy and SDN/NFV networks, without having to change the northbound integration between BECS and other OSS and BSS platforms. And since SDN controller is handled in a way any network equipment would, it can be easily replaced with another new controller when the situation demands. This makes sure that even if the standards are not defined now, or bound to change in the future, BECS can always easily integrate to new standards. This is how, for a minimum cost, BECS provides truly seamless legacy to SDN network transformation. Whether you are using legacy equipment, virtual network functions or a combination of both, your provisioning process is the same, thanks to an open and well-defined API.

The largest benefit for an operator will be the ability to phase out the expensive legacy systems, but also to have the option to phase it out in their own tempo, protecting the value invested in the current hardware. While phasing out the hardware-based system the operator will be able to reduce the OPEX (reduced management of network, but also lower costs for integrations with surrounding systems), improve customer satisfaction (lower churn rates) and reduce lead times when launching new services.

In summary, investing in BECS not only enables operators to harvest the benefits of network and service management automation today, but also provides a gradual and future-proof path to tomorrow’s savings provided by SDN and NFV.