In all the excitement over virtualization and the impact that NFV and SDN will have on telecom networks, one stark reality remains for every IP network operator: However you are evolving your network, if you aren't automating the back-end processes, you're doing it wrong.
This has been a reality for telecom network operators for years now, and most have been working very hard at this task, not only because automation leads to higher service quality and faster service delivery but because it also generally means lower costs of operation.
As those engaged in this process know all too well, introducing automation means extracting people, reducing the human error factor in the process, and enabling flow-through processes that start with the customer input.
Introducing software-defined networks and network functions virtualization into the telecom world will enable a much greater degree of network programmability, with centralized control over network resources that allows them to be targeted and re-used in the way that meets customer demand in the most efficient way possible. Moving services to the cloud model then makes it possible to meet the on-demand needs of many enterprise customers.
But as James Feger, VP-Network Strategy and Development at CenturyLink, noted this week at Light Reading's NFV & the Data Center event in Santa Clara, a one-size cloud does not fit all businesses -- the programmability must allow for customization to some degree, so each customer's slightly different approach can be accommodated.
Telecom operators have traditionally met that kind of challenge by throwing people at it, but that approach won't scale, Feger noted, and also won't enable telecom cloud companies to speed up their service cycles.
"There are a lot of processes we have had in place for the last 50 years that we need to get rid of," he said. "This is how our companies have run -- with an enormous workforce."
With new technology coming so fast, Feger added, there is the temptation even with software-controlled capabilities to add people to handle the challenge. And that's something that must be resisted.
CenturyLink is taking a different approach, pushing for everything to be automated and cloud-based. By providing the level of programmability enterprises want with the back-end automation the company is working to achieve, CenturyLink can achieve the level of self-service for its network services, in addition to its CenturyLink Cloud offers, that the market is demanding. And it can do that in a scalable, cost-effective way that more directly translates into profits.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading