CenturyLink CTO on Network Virtualization; Major Investment in Edge Compute Services

Andrew Dugan, senior vice president  and chief technology officer, CenturyLink, Inc. presented his company’s views on network virtualization and related topics at the Cowen and Company 5th Annual Communications Infrastructure Summit in Boulder CO., on Aug. 13th.  You can listen to the audio webcast replay here.

Dugan said he doesn’t know what AT&T means when the mega carrier says it’s virtualizing 75% of its core network by the end of 2020.   “I’d like to figure out what AT&T means by 75% virtualization,” said Dugan. “I don’t get it. The concept of virtualizing the core router or an optical platform, that’s a lot of cost of your network to provide services. We’re not working on virtualizing that stuff.

Dugan said CenturyLink is focused on virtualizing systems that enable its customers to turn up and turn down services on demand, and it’s also focused on virtualization at the edge of its network. He said the company likes the benefits of putting a white box device on the customer premises and “letting a customer turn up a firewall or an SD-WAN appliance or a WAN accelerator whenever they want.”

Earlier this week, CenturyLink announced the rollout of its edge compute-focused strategy, beginning with a several hundred-million-dollar investment to build out and support edge compute services. This effort – which includes creating more than 100 initial edge compute locations across the U.S., and providing a range of hybrid cloud solutions and managed services – enables customers to advance their next-gen digital initiatives with technology that integrates high performance, low-latency networking with leading cloud service provider platforms in customized configurations.

“Customers are increasingly coming to us for help with applications where latency, bandwidth and geography are critical considerations,” said Paul Savill, senior vice president, product management, CenturyLink. “This investment creates the platform for CenturyLink to enable enterprises, hyperscalers, wireless carriers, and system integrators with the technology elements to drive years of innovation where workloads get placed closer to customers’ digital interactions.”

This expansion allows businesses and government agencies to leverage a highly diverse, global fiber network with edge facilities designed to serve their local locations within 5 milliseconds of latency. With this infrastructure, companies will be able to complete the linkage from office location to market edge compute aggregation to public cloud and data centers with redundant and dynamically consumable network.

“Digital transformation is gaining momentum as enterprises across all verticals look to technology to improve operational efficiency and enhance the customer experience,” said Melanie Posey, Research Vice President and General Manager at 451 Research. “As business processes become increasingly distributed, data-intensive, and transaction-based, the IT systems they depend on must be equally distributed to provide the necessary compute, storage and network resources to far-flung business value chains.”

Dugan said the edge compute platform plays into the company’s virtualization efforts, allowing customers the ability to turn up and turn down Ethernet services, increase capacity, change vLANs, and configure their services on-demand.

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“That, to me, is where NFV and SDN comes in. We haven’t put a number on the percent of the network. We’re more focused on that customer enablement,” he said.

“When you build out an NFV platform, you’ve got the cost of the white box, you have the cost of the management or virtualization software that runs within the white box, and you have the cost of the virtual functions themselves.  If you’re running one or two applications on premise, it’s not cheaper. The real value from NFV comes in the flexibility that it provides you to be able to put a box out there and be able to turn up and turn down services. It’s not a capex reduction…It’s a reduction in operating costs because you’re not having to roll trucks and put boxes out,” Dugan added.

CenturyLink says its “thousands of secure technical facilities combined with its network of 450,000-global route miles of fiber, expertise in high-performance cloud networking, and extensive cloud management expertise make this investment in the rapidly emerging edge compute market a natural evolution for the company.”

Key Facts (source: CenturyLink):

  • CenturyLink today connects to over 2,200 public and private data centers and over 150,000 on-net, fiber-fed enterprise buildings.
  • CenturyLink’s robust fiber network is one of the most deeply peered and well-connected in the world, with over 450,000 route-miles of coverage.
  • CenturyLink is expanding access to its services by expanding network colocation services in many key markets to enable customers and partners to run distributed IT workloads close to the edge of the network.


CenturyLink References:

CenturyLink CEO Jeff Storey: “Expanding our fiber footprint is major focus; Fiber beats wireless, whether it’s 5G or not”

IHS Markit: CenturyLink #1 in the 2019 North American SIP Trunking Scorecard

VSG’s U.S. Carrier Ethernet LEADERBOARD: CenturyLink #1, AT&T #2; U.S. CE port base grew >12%

CenturyLink offers Multi Cloud Connect L2 Service for Fiber-fed Buildings

CenturyLink/Level 3 Says Its Fiber Assets will attract SMBs


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