With its fragmented and technologically and politically varied market and insatiable demand for bandwidth, Asia presents a unique challenge for service providers in the region -- especially as they look at transform to New IP technologies and architectures and serve their enterprise customers.
In fact, according to a survey by NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT), only 18% of Asia enterprises are currently deploying NFV-enabled services and solutions. However, more than 70% of respondents are planning to use this technology in the coming two years. NTT seems to be ahead of the curve with its SDN-based and NFV-enhanced Arcstar Universal One network, which allows traditional on-premise infrastructure, such as WAN optimization solutions and security solutions, to be provided from service provider edge.
To find out more about how NTT is commercializing SDN and NFV and the challenges that the Asian market faces when it comes to New IP transformation, The New IP talked to Patrick Ng, executive vice president, Global Network Business Division, NTT Communications Asia, via email.
The New IP: What are the key drivers for transforming network infrastructure in the Asia-Pacific Region?
Patrick Ng: The technology demands of global enterprises, especially those based in Asia, are becoming increasingly complex. Enterprises are confronted with the pressing need for digital transformation as they try to make sense of big data, cloud, Internet of Things (IoT) and BYOD, etc. Network and other enterprise infrastructures, if not transformed, will become a bottleneck for business innovations and sustainable growth.
In a network world, Asia presents a very unique landscape, mainly comprising fragmented LANs. Networks are challenged by fragmented markets with different jurisdictions and varying developmental stages in telecom infrastructure. Many global enterprises need to liaise with local service providers in emerging markets, and allocating resources for on-premise hardware in branch offices spread across different countries in the region puts pressure on costs, agility and central management.
The New IP: What challenges are businesses facing in the region and globally when it comes to IT transformation?
PN: According to an Ovum Ltd. survey commissioned by NTT Communications, 23% respondents among 100 ICT decision-makers around the world indicated that hardware maintenance needs improvement and 21% found management of ISPs challenging. In terms of security, nearly half of the respondents said they are facing App performance issues (48%) and security threats (47%) when providing secure access for mobile employees.
To overcome these pain points, enterprises are therefore seeking to transform their network, and NFV and SDN would be the answer to improve network availability with better security, scalability and agility at lower costs, as well as better use of operational resources.
The New IP: Are service providers in the Asia-Pacific Region farther ahead with NFV and SDN than in other parts of the world, and if so why?
PN: We believe both service providers and enterprises around the world are warming up to the potentials of NFV and SDN, and Asian enterprises in particular, are quickly adopting the technologies to address the unique challenges.
A recent IDC global research study commissioned by NTT Communications pointed out that 18% of respondents from Asia were currently using NFV to address network challenges in the region, which was ahead of Europe (12.8%), but slightly behind the US (21.9%). However, this is going to change as 42% noted that they planned to use NFV-enabled networks within one year, 30% within two years and 10% in more than two years.
The New IP: What services are most important for NTT to virtualize first and why? Cost savings? Technical efficiency? Scalability?
PN: Leveraging the internal R&D capabilities by Virtela, which we acquired in 2014, NTT Communications has already integrated NFV and SDN technologies into our global network, Arcstar Universal One, and rolled out services offering connectivity in 196 countries and regions around the world.
Our vision is to provide more flexible, agile and cost-efficient connectivity services, riding on the cloud. This has been made possible by the innovative offerings of Arcstar Universal One. Our NFV offering virtualizes network functions traditionally running on proprietary hardware into software -- for example, SSL VPN, IPSec VPN Gateway, Secure Web Gateway and Application Acceleration. This reduces the cost and complexity of deploying sophisticated networks, and increases users' flexibility and control. Enterprises can therefore stay agile and competitive in an ever-changing market.
The New IP: What is the current adoption rate of NFV-enabled services in various regions, and why?
PN: We see that enterprises globally are now realizing NFV's potential. As previously discussed, Asia will be expanding quickly in the coming year. Europe, with a late start, also appears poised to make a strong push into NFV in 2015 while US is expected to grow continuously.
In terms of the types of NFV-enabled services, the same IDC survey reflected that the majority of global CIOs were interested in deploying cloud-based SSL VPN (63.5%), followed by virtualized/cloud VPN (55.2%), cloud-based secure web gateway (45.3%), and cloud-based IPSEC VPN gateway (43.2%).
From a CIO perspective, NFV offers a good service match for the fragmented network landscape in APAC whereby implementing an efficient IT infrastructure is challenging because enterprises used to have to deal with numerous local network service providers separately in each country/region. [In addition,] NFV enables enterprises to activate and configure network services to set up networks for branch offices in different locations in real time via an online portal, eliminating the "one device, per service, per location" model.
The New IP: What is NTT's roadmap for NFV and SDN?
PN: To transform enterprise networks for the cloud era, NTT Com continues to innovate new services. In FY2015, the new product features, such as Multi-cloud, Asset Light and Multi-client will be made available. Some of these features are the first to be commercialized in the industry, and all services will enjoy self-service features via an automated customer web portal.
Multi-cloud: Enterprise customers can use this new function to connect to services on private clouds other than NTT Com's Enterprise Cloud, such as Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services. This feature is expected to be available from August 2015.
Asset Light: Advocating "Moving Middleboxes into the Cloud," NTT Communications launched cloud-based offerings for network functions such as application acceleration, secure web gateway and SSL VPN. And later in FY2015, a new function -- mobile application acceleration -- will be added to the line-up. The service will enable enterprises to accelerate traffic between end users' mobile devices and cloud or data center hosted applications, optimizing users' experiences.
Multi-client: Arcstar Universal One Virtual, a virtual network service first launched in Japan, was introduced on a global basis in May this year. Global customers can use this service to establish highly secure connections to clouds or to access corporate data via various devices, such as PCs, smartphones and tablets. Furthermore, this service can establish overlay connections and is open to non-Arcstar Universal One users, including enterprise networks using the Internet and/or third-party network service providers. This function will be the first of its kind in the world.
The New IP: What are the security implications on NFV and how is NTT Com addressing them?
PN: Global infrastructure attacks are becoming more distributed and diffused. Denial-of-service attacks have become an alarming threat to the largest networks in the world. From the survey we commissioned from Ovum, [we learned that] half of the respondents (49%) saw security as their top investment area. We understand their concerns, and [we are] determined to help enterprises mitigate these threats by providing secure, reliable and robust network services.
Arcstar Universal One combines the best features of a private cloud service with a public enterprise cloud platform. The cloud-based network services suite includes a range of security platforms that leverage a NFV-SDN combination, and allows end users to utilize self-provision services on-demand through the online portal interface.
Apart from monitoring security infrastructure 24/7, NTT Com security specialists develop security strategies, as well as undertake risk and vulnerability assessments without compromising the flexibility and scalability inherent in the cloud.
And through the NFV-enabled customer portal, functions such as firewall, IPS, anti-virus, and URL Filtering are available and managed centrally by users. A cloud-based firewall also provides safe internet breakout for end-users through the nearest provider edge.
— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Editor, The New IP