At no point in the history of our industry have things changed at the rate they are changing today, according to Andrew Coward, VP of Strategy, Brocade, who delivered a keynote at Light Reading's 2020 Vision event in Dublin this week.
As clever as Coward's quote sounds, and as much as it applies to the current New IP transformation underway in the telecom industry, he confessed that he was taught to say this very sentence 20 years ago during his first public speaking class because it applies to any topic, and because "people will clap and say, this guy understands our industry," he said. And then, in fact, attendees at 2020 Vision clapped -- and laughed at the same time.
Joking aside, Coward continued, "Perhaps it is true that our industry is changing at that rate because it certainly feels that way." This rate of change had made service providers "not so sure how they make the transition."
He Knows That Times Are Changing
Brocade's Andrew Coward basks in the purple keynote haze at Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Dublin.
While many service providers followed a path toward network automation with existing products, which they thought would "free them, free time and reduce opex," Coward said, "the first iteration of automation has actually locked many cloud service providers in and made it difficult to change and move up to the next level of the network."
The reason behind this lock-in is the nature of the scripts they had to write for products and services that were very specific to various vendors' products, said Coward. "What was missing in that whole model was the abstraction layer that said, 'I can write a script and not worry about the underlying infrastructure.'" As a result, service providers had to go back to the drawing board again to build agility into the network and drive automation further, he added.
"When we get to the automation and agility, the interoperability and efficiency starts to play out and that's where we see the SDN Controller start to come together, but we don't think that's the end of the journey."
According to Coward, what's next on this New IP journey is artificial intelligence and machine learning -- or when the software-defined network (SDN) elements are able to intelligently move, adapt and control the network based on network data and status. "The first place we see this happening is in security," he said, adding that Brocade has started building machine-learning algorithms to tackle the network automation challenge.
Bringing things back down to the here and now, though, Coward said one of the New IP projects that Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) has seen through instantiation to installation is its virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE), which is now part of AT&T's Network on Demand Managed Internet Service.
Virtual CPE has long been thought of as one of the first places virtualization will realize a strong business case. In fact, at 2020 Vision, Heavy Reading presented new research showing that vCPE has the potential to achieve a $20-$30 billion market, specifically in managed security services.
However, Coward said Brocade's decision to move with vCPE was more of a theoretical one. "We started out with the premise of, 'is it possible in this new world to give everyone their own network?'" said Coward. "If you think about the world we live in today, you divide your infrastructure and resources up to customers but you don't typically give customers their own Brocade, Juniper or Cisco router. You share it among customers.
"It's been a very long time since customers built their own networks themselves but we actually have the opportunity to move back to that world," he said. "That's where we started with this -- we said how can we use a vRouter in a cloud or on premise to give each customer their own network?" (Listen to Brocade: Building Your Own Network to hear more from Coward on this topic.)
If each enterprise can have its own network made up of its own router instance, virtualized firewall and more, virtualized functions can be assigned on a per-user basis to be networked and controlled at that scale. This capability could not only totally transform the service provider landscape, enabling OTTs and web-scale companies to become service providers, but it could also improve the customer experience and create more granular, distributed security, thereby stopping hackers before they get too far into the larger network.
Brocade mapped out what giving customers their own network would look like for the 2020 Vision attendees. Here's a peek for The New IP readers.
Going forward, Brocade hopes to see additional service providers rolling out similar vCPE services. "This became the number one service that was demonstrable and could add value immediately," noted Coward.
For more coverage from 2020 Vision, see also:
IBM Sees Telcos Capturing, Connecting Data in Cognitive Era
Telcos Falling Further Behind OTTs on Virtualization
NFV Test Report Is a Gamechanger
T1: Service Provider Judgment Day
— Elizabeth Miller Coyne, Editor, The New IP