One of the key metrics of The New IP is speed to market, and it's something of increasing importance to network operators. Often speed is discussed in the context of bringing innovative new services to market at the same pace as Internet players such as Google and Facebook, with the ability to turn up and turn down services in immediate response to market demand.
Speed also counts in the realm of business services, however, and in fact, there is a more near-term focus for service providers in that arena, given the direct correlation between the ability to meet customer needs quickly and successfully in increasingly competitive markets.
When CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) rolled out a national ultra-high capacity long-haul network, for example, it wasn't enough to embrace a new generation of equipment and new types of services for end-users, the company had to deploy all this very quickly, with an eye toward rapid service turn-up and capacity re-use, says Pieter Poll, senior vice president of national and international network planning.
The philosophy is simple: "Time is a weapon," Poll says.
"We want to make sure we can we can quickly satisfy demands whether that demand sits between our core routers, where Internet traffic is growing quickly. And we have to make sure we don't have congestion, to the case where the customer is going to come in and want connectivity to a data center, and as we approach the holidays, potentially want it deployed very quickly and for a very short period of time," Poll tells The New IP.
In this case, the major step forward was deploying equipment from its packet-optical vendor, Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN), which enables the capacity upgrade with a fairly simple plugin addition, coupled with an automated process for adding new wavelengths. The new network was turned up in about nine months, which is unprecedented speed for this kind of operation. (See Geek Alert: CenturyLink, Infinera Take Terabit Network to SC14.)
"Time to market has become critical, in terms of providing backbone connectivity for a lot of the large social networks," Poll says. "There are requests that come in to turn up staggering numbers of 10-gig, if not 100-gig wavelength demands, and then we need them in a week. That is not what we saw two or three years ago in terms of our need to respond."
There are still field operations required but getting that done and getting the 100-gig wavelength up across the network is no longer the typical gating factor, he says. "Usually the piece that gates us all is figuring out how in a carrier hotel you get that cross-connect to get to the customer," Poll says. It's interesting that the cross-connect is becoming a limiting factor in how fast we can turn this up."
Further ahead lies "some form of control plane integration -- that is the next step," he adds. "If someone says I need to get from data center A to B, but then dynamically at some point I want to go from A to C."
That's what software-defined networking will bring, Poll admits.
"We have a lot of interest from our customers in that capability and we're quite far along in our development of those capabilities," he says. "That's one I don't want to talk about in terms of exactly when, obviously because this is quite a competitive market."
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading