TC3 Sponsor Series: Navigating the Network Transformation Journey

Author: Pramod Venkatesh, Director, Cloud Platform and Operations, Criterion Networks

The advent of next generation technologies such as 5G, IOT and AI are pushing the boundaries of infrastructure demanding increased programmability and agility. Compute and storage have effectively stood up to that challenge. And, network finds itself at a pivotal state of transformation – software-defined networking being the catalytic enabler.

Today we are on-ramp to that transformation. Enterprises and Service providers across the board are beginning to understand that to roll out innovative applications and services to their end customers, they have to have an agile network. Meanwhile vendors are bringing to market products that are software-defined and highly programmable. Even so, the network transformation journey from legacy to the next-generation is not an easy one.

The Challenge

While operators have acknowledged that software-defined and programmable networking is the way forward, they are faced with operational challenges in making this transformation.

Accepting the Technology Shift. Next generation networks are built using software stacks on Linux and are doing away with CLI while moving to REST APIs.

Bridging the Skills Gap. Traditional network engineers do not have the software and systems engineering skillsets required to architect and build next generation networks.

Adopting DevOps. Legacy operational frameworks work on configuration changes and process associated with it. Next generation networking will move into a self-service configuration model which means the current operational framework organizations have will not scale.

Multi-Vendor Integrations. Legacy networking did not require deep integrations between multiple vendor products, whereas next generation networks require multi-vendor integrations to provide network-as-a-service to end customers. Testing and operationalizing such solutions is inherently complex. In addition to vendor products, various open source software plugin to those solutions, which in turn requires open source validations that add to the complexity.

Many Networks. Networking in an enterprise and service providers vary widely. In addition, a service provider would likely have Data center, IP/MPLS, Optical Transport and Core networks. So, identifying where to start the transformation journey is itself a major ask.

Networking in an enterprise and service providers vary widely. In addition, a service provider would likely have Data center, IP/MPLS, Optical Transport and Core networks. So, identifying where to start the transformation journey is itself a major ask.

The Way Forward

While the challenges are overwhelming both architecturally and operationally, the benefits of adopting next generation networks have been widely accepted. Operators are slowly but surely on that transformation path today.

Here are four steps to help ease into that journey:

  1. Train and Learn: Network operators should invest in training their architects in next generation networking concepts such as Linux, Containers and OpenFlow and in programmability concepts such as Python and Ansible. These trainings should adopt a more hands-on approach with an eye toward real-world networking use-cases.
  1. Identify Pockets of Change: Next generation networking is more use-case focused when compared to legacy. Hence CIO’s and architects need to prioritize the use-cases which provide maximum ROI with manageable risk . As an example, adopting software-defined networking in WAN has significant ROI across a wide variety of use-cases that can be replicated to minimize the overall risks.
  1. Evaluate and Validate Solutions: Architects need to evaluate various vendors for their use-cases; test their solutions; and understand how they can bridge vendor gaps using open source elements. For example, they can choose Cisco ACI for the data center, but to manage a hybrid environment with multiple vendors, they can choose the OpenDaylight controller to act as an integration element.
  1. Deploy and Operationalize Solutions: Once a solution has been adopted and validated, the next step is to deploy the solution in a phased manner and operationalize the network, which involves rewriting the existing operational documents and process. For example, this may involve building a CI or CD pipeline to auto-deploy configurations on a continuous basis.

To enable faster adoption of next generation networks, Criterion Networks has already built an end to end portfolio of products to help service providers and enterprises in each and every step of their transformation journey. With Criterion Networks, customers can not only easily navigate the complexity of next generation networking but also drive towards faster rollouts.

Criterion SDCloud Learning Platform enables enterprises and organizations to undertake large scale workforce skills transformation with self-paced learnings and hands-on labs. Criterion SDCloud Sandboxing platform allows architects and engineers to evaluate and validate multi-vendor solutions with the click of a button.

Creating on-demand learning labs with hands on exercises and on-demand sandboxing enables organizations to train and work on multiple products and solutions in parallel without infrastructure limitations thereby increasing the speed of their network transformation.

About Criterion Networks:

Criterion Networks is a network transformation partner for service providers and large enterprises to accelerate their journey in adopting network virtualization and automation.

Criterion’s cloud based solution acceleration platform, Criterion SDCloud® tailored for customized network transformation use-cases enables multi-vendor solution sandboxes, learning academy and NFV test framework as-a-service to support customers with their innovation and deployment roadmaps. Consultancy, hands-on workshops, and CNLabs independent testing are other popular programs with our customers embarking on their network transformation journey.

For more information, please contact us at info@criterionnetworks.com

 

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