BT Global Services is building on its early work in NFV and SDN to expand and accelerate its "dynamic network services," most recently partnering with Nokia Nuage Networks in its efforts to meet customers' preferences in their move to the cloud.
NFV, SDN and SD-WANs are integral to BT's ability to support customers' continued move to the cloud, Keith Langridge, vice president of Network Services at
BT Global Services , tells the New IP Agency. In fact, hosting and cloud services will account for 34% of total enterprise IT budgets in 2017 compared with 28% this year, according to the newly released "Voice of the Enterprise: Hosting and Cloud Managed Services" study by 451 Research.
Langridge spoke recently to NIA's Alison Diana about BT's relationship with Nokia and Nuage Networks , its dynamic network services, future plans and its role as a "cloud of cloud service provider." The interview has been edited for length.
New IP Agency: What's the status of BT's SD-WAN portfolio today?
Keith Langridge: Our strategy with SD-WAN is to use two technologies. One technology we're using is Cisco IWAN. Cisco IWAN has a software capability that's added to the edge router, the customer edge router, which the majority of our customers take from us as a managed service. And the second thing we are doing is we are providing an alternative SD-WAN capability which is perhaps simpler and easier to set up and quicker to deploy for our customers, and this is where we are looking to our partnership with Nokia and Nuage. (See BT Enters SD-WAN Fray With Cisco.)
NIA: What are "dynamic network services?"
KL: For dynamic network services, there are five key elements: The first key element is the SD-WAN, software-controlled VPN; you can imagine this as putting clever equipment on customer premises to enable them to simply move to where they want to be, whether it's their own data center or the cloud data center, other locations... The second element is we're building cloud service parts. We already have 18 cloud services, these are the locations where we've linked in to the likes of Microsoft Azure and Salesforce and HP Enterprise, and we're growing that to a total of 50 nodes. Within those 50 nodes, we'll be providing virtual network functions and we'll be able to terminate, to link in, the SD-WAN capability for customers and help them break into the cloud.
The third element is services on demand. For us there are two parts to it. The first is, over the next year, we'll be launching flexible bandwidth -- bandwidth on demand -- on our MPLS network so customers will be able to flex their MPLS cord up and down on a scheduled basis... or on an immediate basis. And the second part of services on demand would be the ability to download and manage virtual network functions and provide those functions either on the customer edge or provide those functions from the 50 cloud service nodes.
The fourth part is agile customer premises equipment, so basically using customer premise equipment that can host a number virtual network functions -- that could be firewall functions, it could be route-optimization functions, it could be IP voice capabilities -- and enabling those to be held on a virtual basis at the customer edge. And the last element of dynamic network services is to ensure we can match the flexibility commercially that cloud services offer over our network as well. So pricing as you flex your bandwidth up and down the pricing changes according, providing services on utility-type payment options with shorter terms than traditionally customers have at the moment with things like try before you buy options.
NIA: Are customers asking for these services or is there a real educational process BT must use for prospective and existing customers?
KL: I suppose it's a bit of both. We're finding all of our customers are having the same changes. They're all doing data center consolidation to reduce the number of data centers. They're all suffering from bandwidth needs and looking to the Internet as a way to cover those bandwidth-growth needs more cheaply and they're all moving to cloud. Some of them are more advanced than others: Some of them plan to move to cloud and are asking for our help in how to do it, some have already moved to cloud and are seeing the impact on their network. So the requirements are there from all our customers. The way they're going about dealing with those requirements is different in each case. However, I would say there's a lot of pull from our customer base as their needs don't go away. As new technologies come along -- such as SDN being applied to wide area networks, the concept of SD-WANs -- and also the virtualization of network functions enable the customer to have more flexibility to provide firewalls at the edge are really good tools that will enable us as a service provider to help the customer get to where they really need to be.
NIA: BT's described itself as a "cloud of cloud services integrator." What does that mean?
KL: The strategy we've defined is to provide a cloud of clouds to the customer. Basically, what we mean by that is our customers clearly want to move to cloud-based services, and that could be virtualized hosting -- infrastructure as a service, platform as a service. It could be taking software as a service, so it could be moving to Office 365 or taking Salesforce instead of running their own... They're moving to cloud-based collaboration services. What we see our role as is to provide our customers with a route to whatever it is they route in those services. So we provide networks to a lot of our customers, and those networks traditionally have connected their end user locations to their data centers. As they're consolidating their data centers, we've connected our networks both to things like Equinix locations -- so they can get virtualized hosting -- but we've also connected up to our own data centers so we offer our customers the ability to build private clouds in our premises, in their premises, in Equinix premises, etc., and not saying, "Well actually you've got to take our product and our capability," but say, "We have a capability and we can help you go wherever it is you're going." Similarly we can help our customers connect to Office 365 or we can help them connect to our own hosted Skype services, both of which are connected to our network.
We see our role really as a cloud services integrator, so really we're hooking up with all the cloud services that are out there or helping our customers get there. If we're not linked into a cloud service provider that a customer is using we can carry their internet traffic over MPLS and break that Internet traffic out near to where it needs to be. So really it's all about helping our customers on this journey to the cloud.
NIA: What have some of the challenges BT has encountered in its work with different vendors' products?
KL: We've been evaluating a lot of technology and the key thing for us is we have not wanted to go with one proprietary system that would lock us in so that our service offering for our customer only became that vendor's roadmap. Hence, we have two solutions for SD-WAN. The key for us is to ensure we develop our own orchestration systems to enable us to host, to download and run virtual network functions and that all of the vendors we work with have low-level APIs. A low-level API is that our own API can directly work by standards -- it's important to us to work by standards -- and with the providers of virtual CPE, with the providers of virtual hosting so that we can control the service environment of the types of services we offer our customers.
We see this as a long term change and a big future. It's not about building ourselves locked into one vendor's roadmap but being able to ensure we can provide a service to our customers globally, because we are a global company, across a range of equipment.
— Alison Diana, Editor, The New IP Agency. Follow her on Twitter @alisoncdiana or @The_New_IP.