Reshaping India’s IP networks by reducing complexity and cost
Preparing for 5G is forcing India's service providers to look at how well their IP networks’ architecture is suited for scale and efficiency, says Ciena's Digvijay Sharma. The need for more protocols, the trend toward virtualization of applications and services, and never-ending demand for increased bandwidth requires service providers to find an innovative and efficient approach to address new IP network requirements. This article was first published in ETTelecom.
Internet Protocol (IP) technology is universal across the entire global network domain. One can call it an example of ongoing technology convergence. The first wave of convergence was about consolidating data and voice services, and video to some extent. The current convergence wave is to move further towards building intelligent automation systems, self-monitoring networks, and autonomous control systems. The real benefit of this is the ability to interact between these isolated solutions to form a composite network framework.
Preparing for 5G is creating an impetus for India’s service providers to look at how well their IP networks’ architecture is suited to scale and efficiency. Traditionally, most operators have reacted to the pressure for increased bandwidth by adding more hardware throughout the network every time they needed to increase capacity. However, with today’s changes in mobility and use cases, this makes network operations management overly complex, expensive, and simply unsustainable.
Combining the need for more protocols with the trend toward virtualization of applications and services, the disaggregation of infrastructure, the never-ending demands for increased bandwidth, and network flexibility, there’s clearly a need for an entirely new and different approach to delivering standards-based IP that is fully compatible with existing IP networks.
The industry requires a new and innovative approach to address new IP network requirements. Infrastructures today should support new applications, deliver cloud-like scalability, embrace openness, and fully leverage intelligent automation. Service providers can achieve this through technologies such as Segment Routing, network slicing, analytics, and automated service orchestration.
Building Simplified Networks with Segment Routing
As India looks ahead to a continuous wave of explosive digital growth, India’s service providers must evolve their existing network infrastructure to support new services, such as 5G, IoT, and edge computing, without adding complexity and negatively impacting total cost of ownership.
Segment Routing has strong potential to become the main IP network architecture that will usher in the next era of digitization and network simplification in India. Segment Routing isn’t a new technology, as vendors and service providers alike have been talking about it for close to a decade, but the reasons to actually implement it are stronger than in the past.
Segment Routing is an innovative networking paradigm for source routing. It enables the source to define the path that the data packet will take. Segment Routing leverages multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) to forward data packets, but the labels are carried by an interior gateway protocol (IGP). In Segment Routing, every node is identified using a unique identifier called the node SID. This globally unique SID is usually based on a loopback on the device. Locally significant labels for a segment between two devices are identified by adjacency SIDs.
Segment Routing is becoming a preferred technology for its capability of simplifying networks. It provides great flexibility because of its ability to interface with software-defined networks and allow source-based routing. To its further advantage, Segment Routing can also operate with an IPv6 data plane, although there is still work remaining for this implementation to be broadly adopted. It also integrates with the rich multi-service capabilities of MPLS, including Layer 3 VPN (L3VPN) and Ethernet VPN (EVPN).
Network Slicing for 5G
Network slicing leverages the principles of network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) to divide a single physical infrastructure into multiple virtual networks, each with different performance profiles. Service providers can use network slicing to deliver customized services, drawing from a pool of virtual and physical resources over a common physical resource. In this way, service providers can significantly optimize their infrastructure cost and maintenance efforts.
Network slicing allows operators to allocate the appropriate amount of network resources to a specific slice. It is vendor-agnostic and enables operators to automate end-to-end production of dynamic, SLA-based virtual network slices that can meet the specific needs of users, humans and machines. This enables operators to derive new revenue from 5G networks.
A key advantage of this technology is the ability to deliver networks on an as-a-service basis, which further minimizes operational expenses and capital expenditure. In addition, it boosts operational efficiency and improves time-to-market. With end-to-end network slicing, operators can deliver differentiated services on the same network infrastructure with guaranteed an differentiated SLAs, creating a scalable and future-proof business opportunity.
Intelligent Automation – The Efficient Path to Manage Dense 5G Networks
When 5G is deployed in India, network virtualization will become more complex than in the current era. In this case, intelligent analytics-driven automation will become essential to operate at scale to contain costs. 5G networks will require automation that can support multi-domain and multi-vendor technologies as services. Network Slicing will traverse across multiple network segments such as radio, access, core and edge which may contain a mix of virtual and physical network functions in addition to programmable and non-programmable technologies.
Under 5G, an open environment will be essential for industry partners to develop new services and increase revenue while avoiding vendor lock-in. The transition from 4G to 5G will be a long journey requiring network teams to rely heavily on automation and a pragmatic strategy.
Bringing it All Together – Adaptive IP
Ciena’s expertise and extensive experience in delivering industry-leading wireline transport networks and intelligent automation allow network operators to more easily scale their existing 4G networks. This way they can leverage a common network infrastructure to easily transition to high-performance 5G networks with minimal risk and the ability to realize a faster ROI.
Adaptive IPTM is designed to enable this by offering a rich portfolio of purpose-built routers, supported by an agile and targeted set of open IP protocols. Together with multi-vendor, multi-layer automation and analytics driven by streaming telemetry, Adaptive IP also provides end-to-end visualization and path computation, making it simpler and more cost-effective to manage and optimize IP networks.
Ciena’s Adaptive IP easily supports concepts like Segment Routing, Network Slicing, Virtualization, and Edge Computing that will be at the forefront of any successful 5G deployment.