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.

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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

 

IHS Markit: Cloud and Mobility Driving Enterprise Edge Connectivity in North America

IHS Markit Survey: Cloud and mobility driving new requirements for enterprise edge connectivity in North America
By Matthias Machowinski, senior research director, IHS Markit, and Joshua Bancroft, senior analyst, IHS Markit

Highlights

  • By 2019, 51 percent of network professionals surveyed by IHS Markit will use hybrid cloud and 37 percent will adopt multi-cloud for application delivery.
  • Bandwidth consumption continues to rise. Companies are expecting to increase provisioned wide-area network (WAN) bandwidth by more than 30 percent annually across all site types.
  • Data backup and storage is the leading reason for traffic growth, followed by cloud services
  • Software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) is maturing: 66 percent of surveyed companies anticipate deploying it by the end of 2020.
  • Companies deploying SD-WAN use over 50 percent more bandwidth, than those who have not deployed it. Their bandwidth needs are also growing at twice the rate of companies using traditional WANs.

Analysis

Based on a survey of 292 network professionals at North American enterprises, IHS Markit explored the evolving requirements for enterprise edge connectivity, including WAN and SD-WAN. The study revealed that enterprise IT architectures and consumption models are currently undergoing a major transformation, from servers and applications placed at individual enterprise sites, to a hybrid-cloud model where centralized infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) complements highly utilized servers in enterprise-operated data centers. This process allows organizations to bring the benefits of cloud architectures to their own data centers – including simplified management, agility and scalability – and leverage the on-demand aspect of cloud services during peak periods. Respondents also reinforced the viewpoint that the hybrid cloud is a stepping stone to the emerging multi-cloud.

Changing business demographics is sparking the trend of more centralized applications: enterprises are moving closer to their customers, partners, and suppliers. They are adding more physical locations, making mobility a key part of their processes and taking on remote employees to leverage talent and expertise.

Following the current wave of application centralization, certain functions requiring low latency will migrate back to the enterprise edge, residing on universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) and other shared compute platforms. This development is still in its infancy, but it is already on the radar of some companies.

Hybrid cloud is an ideal architecture for distributed enterprises, but it is also contributing to traffic growth at the enterprise edge. Extra attention must be paid to edge connectivity, to ensure users don’t suffer from slow or intermittent access to applications. Performance is a top concern, and enterprises are not only adding more WAN capacity and redundancy, but also adopting SD-WAN.

The primary motivation for deploying SD-WAN is to improve application performance and simplify WAN management. The first wave of SD-WAN deployments focused on cost reduction, and this is still clearly the case, with survey respondents indicating their annual mega-bits-per-second cost is approximately 30 percent lower, with costs declining at a faster rate than in traditional WAN deployments. These results show that SD-WAN can be a crucial way to balance runaway traffic growth with budget constraints.

SD-WAN solutions not only solve the transportation and WAN cost reduction issue, but also help enterprises create a fabric for the multi-cloud. Features like analytics to understand end-user behaviour, enhanced branch security and having a centralized management portal all make SD-WAN an enticing proposition for enterprises looking to adopt a multi-cloud approach.

Enterprise Edge Connectivity Strategies North American Enterprise Survey 

This IHS Markit study takes explores how companies are advancing connectivity at the enterprise edge, in light of new requirements. It includes traditional WAN and SD-WAN growth expectations, growth drivers, plans for new types of connectivity and technologies, equipment used, feature requirements, preferred suppliers, , and spending plans.

IHS Markit: Video to Drive Demand for Edge Computing Services

Edge computing will get its primary propulsion from demand for video services, IHS Markit found in a survey. The Linux Foundation commissioned IHS Markit to identify the top apps and revenue opportunities for edge compute services.  Video content delivery was cited by 92% of respondents as the top driver of edge computing, while augmented/virtual reality, autonomous vehicles and the industrial internet of things (IIoT) all tied for second place.

During a keynote address at this week’s Layer123 SDN NFV World Congress at The Hague, IHS Markit’s Michael Howard, executive director research and analysis, carrier networks (and a long time colleague of this author), presented some of the results from the market research firm’s survey of edge compute application survey respondents.

“The edge ‘is in’ these days in conversations, conferences and considerations—and there are many definitions,” Howard wrote in an email to FierceTelecom. “Our conclusion is that there are many edges, but as an industry, I believe we can coalesce around a time-related distance to the end user, device or machine, which indicates a short latency, on which many edge applications rely.  The other major driver for edge compute is big bandwidth, principally video, where caching and content delivery networks save enormous amounts of video traffic on access, metro, and core networks.”

IHS Markit defined edge compute as being within 20 milliseconds of the end user, device or machine. When compared to Internet Exchanges, telcos have an advantage at the edge because they are much closer to the users via their central offices, cell sites, cell backhaul aggregation, fixed backhaul and street cabinets.

Integrated communications providers and over-the-top providers have partial coverage for edge compute with distributed data centers that are within the 20 milliseconds to 50 milliseconds range, while telcos can hit 5 milliseconds to 20 milliseconds.

Among the top services that are driving edge compute, video content delivery, which included 360 video and venues, was first at 92% followed by a three-way tie among autonomous vehicles, augmented reality/virtual reality and industrial internet of things/automated factory all at 83%. Gaming was next at 75%, with distributed virtualized mobile core and fixed access in another tie with private LTE at 58%.

Other findings from the survey:

  • Surveillance and supply chain management each garnered 33%, while smart cities was last at 25%.
  • When it comes to which edge services will garner the most revenue, distributed virtualized mobile core and fixed access, private LTE, gaming, video content delivery and industrial IoT all tied at the top of the survey results.
  • Supply chain management, autonomous vehicles and AR/VR tied in the next grouping while surveillance and smart cities tied for last.
  • Consumer-driven revenue at the edge includes gaming and video content delivery networks while enterprise-driven revenues will include private LTE, industrial IoT and supply chain.
  • Overall, many of the edge deployments will initially be justified by cost savings first followed by revenue-bearing applications.
  • Edge compute apps will start out in limited or contained rollouts with full deployment taking years and investments across several areas, according to the survey.

Although edge compute brings services closer to end users and alleviates bandwidth constraints, it’s complex. Even a single edge compute location is complex with elements of network functions virtualization, mobile edge computing and fixed mobile convergence technologies that can spread across hundreds of thousands locations.

There are also authorization, billing and reconciliation issues that need to be addressed across various domains, which could be resolved using blockchain to create virtual ledgers.

Further, there’s a long investment road ahead to fully deploy edge compute. Areas that comprise the top tier of investments for edge compute include multi-access edge compute, integration, edge connectivity (two-way data flows, SD-WAN services, low latency and bandwidth), 5G spectrum and engineering.

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Earlier this year, AT&T Foundry launched an edge computing test zone in Palo Alto, California, to kick the tires on AR, VR and cloud-driven gaming.  As part of the second phase, AT&T Foundry is expanding its edge test zone footprint to cover all of the San Francisco Bay Area, allowing for increased application mobility and broader collaboration potential.

Dell’Oro: Service Provider Edge Router & Switch Sales -8% in 1H-2018

Sales of network service provider Edge Routers and Carrier Ethernet switches declined 8% year over year in the first half of 2018 (1H-2018), according to Dell’Oro Group’s just released market research report.

“The confluence of tepid telecom spending, maturing 4G mobile backhaul deployments, and new product introductions have contributed to the reduction in demand for routers and switches,” said Shin Umeda, vice president at Dell’Oro Group. “Telecom operators in the US have pared down their spending well below historical levels as they evaluate new technologies and architectures for 5G backhaul, and on top of that, the massive network buildouts in China are slowing after years of growth.”

“On the positive side, Cisco, Juniper, and Nokia have introduced major upgrades to their edge router portfolios that should bring customers back in the coming quarters,” added Umeda.

Cisco announced enhancements to its upgrades ASR 9000 edge routing platform earlier this month, while Juniper Networks has upgraded its MX Series for the demands of 5G wireless networks and announced 400 Gigabit Ethernet which must be primarily for high performance cloud data centers and possibly data center interconnects.

Cisco, Huawei, Nokia (via Alcatel-Lucent), and Juniper Networks were the carrier switch/router vendor market share leaders in the second quarter, according to Dell’Oro. A bounce in European switch/router sales was not enough to fully offset declines in North America and Asia Pacific.

The Dell’Oro Group “Router & Carrier Ethernet Switch Quarterly Report” covers the service provider core and edge router, Carrier Ethernet switch, and enterprise router markets for current and historical time periods. The report includes qualitative analysis and statistics for vendor market shares, revenue, average selling prices, and unit and port shipments.

About the Report:

The Dell’Oro Group Router & Carrier Ethernet Switch Quarterly Report offers complete, in-depth coverage of the Service Provider Core and Edge Router, Carrier Ethernet Switch, and Enterprise Router markets for current and historical time periods. The report includes qualitative analysis and detailed statistics for vendor market shares, revenue, average selling prices, and unit and port shipments. To purchase these reports, please contact us by email at dgsales@delloro.com.

http://www.delloro.com/news/service-provider-edge-router-switch-market-declined-eight-percent-first-half-2018

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A new study titled, ‘Global Carrier Ethernet Switch and Router Market’ added by Reports Monitor is a collection of different segmentations, which includes the product types and uses, foundation elements of (Market/Product Name), and expected adoption timeline of Carrier Ethernet Switch and Router sales in the industry. This report provides a detailed analysis of the various use cases and applications of Carrier Ethernet Switch and Router Market in the global industry, their benefits, and challenges for their implementation. Moreover, it provides the potential revenue generation from the adoption of Carrier Ethernet Switch and Router for each application over the forecast period.

The market has been studied on the basis of various macro- and microeconomic factors influencing it. While focusing on the major driving and restraining factors for the market, the report also provides an in-depth study of the competitive landscape, investment scenario, regulatory framework, and the key strategies and developments taking place within the Global Carrier Ethernet Switch and Router Market.The report offers a comprehensive evaluation of the market. It does so via in-depth qualitative insights, historical data, and verifiable projections about market size. The projections featured in the report have been derived using proven research methodologies and assumptions. By doing so, the research report serves as a repository of analysis and information for every facet of the market, including but not limited to: Regional markets, technology, types, and applications. Our business offerings represent the latest and the most reliable information indispensable for businesses to sustain a competitive edge.

Enquire for the Discount on this Report at:https://www.marketinsightsreports.com/reports/0914839668/global-and-southeast-asia-carrier-ethernet-switch-and-router-industry-2018-market-research-report/discount?source=thefairreporter&mode=03          

IDC Directions 2018 Insight: Intelligent Network Edge, SD-WANs & SD-Branch

Introduction:

IDC Directions is the market research firm’s annual conference, which always delivers an informative and actionable overview of the issues shaping the information technology, telecommunications, and consumer technology markets.  IDC speakers look at the current state of various markets, cutting edge trends and future IT developments that are likely to result in transformation and change.

This year’s event only had one session on networking which we cover in detail in this article. A total event summary is beyond the scope of the IEEE ComSoc techblog.

Abstract:

As the edge plays host to a growing array of new applications, the focus ultimately turns to edge networking, which must deliver the requisite connectivity, bandwidth, low-latency, and network services for both enterprise and service provider deployments. Indeed, as IoT and other edge services proliferate, a one-size-fits-all approach to edge networking and network security will not suffice. In this session, Brad Casemore of IDC examined the diversity of network requirements and solutions at the edge, covering physical, virtual, and network-as-a-service (NaaS) use cases and application scenarios.

Presentation Highlights:

According to IDC, the “Intelligent Edge” includes both the IT Edge (IT activities performed outside the data center, but within purview of IT) and the OT/Operations Technology Edge (embedded technologies that do not directly generate data for enterprise use, and are outside the direct purview of IT).

That’s in contrast to the “Core,” which is the “IT Data Center” — an information aggregation facility that is located on the firm’s own physical premises, off-premises in a collocation facility, or off-premises at a virtual location such as a public cloud.

Networking at the Intelligent Edge involves three types of sub-networks:

▪ Enterprise Cloud IT Edge (branch networking for the cloud)

▪ Enterprise Branch IT Edge (the evolution of networking at branch offices/remote sites)

▪ IoT Edge (networking to, from, and at the IoT/OT Edge)

Networking provides essential connectivity and bandwidth, but it also provides valuable network and security services that accelerate and optimize application and service performance at the edge.  Brad said that significant innovation is occurring in edge networking which are enabling better business outcomes at the intelligent edge.  Some examples of innovation are:

• Software Defined Networks (SDN)/Intent-based

• Overlay networks (such as SD-WANs)

• Network Virtualization (NV)/Network Function Virtualization (NFV)

• Network security (software-defined perimeter)

As a result, the intelligent edge network is significantly contributing to automated network intelligence, in addition to providing wireless and wireline connectivity services.

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Enterprise IT is being challenged to provide access to public and private clouds while also maintaining secure and effective communications with regional offices and headquarters (usually through an IP-MPLS VPN).

Enterprise WANs are not effective for Cloud access, because they lack agility, flexibility, and efficiency.

These two issues are depicted in the following two IDC figures:

 

As a result, a different Application Centric WAN architecture is needed.  Brad proposed SD-WANs for this purpose, despite the reality there is no standard definition or functionality for SD-WAN and no standards for multi-vendor inter-operability or inter-SD-WAN connections (e.g. UNI or NNI, respectively).  SD-WAN is an overlay network that provides user control via the Application layer, rather than via a “Northbound” API to/from the Control plane (as in conventional SDN).

The use cases for SD-WAN have been well established, including improving application performance by enabling use of multiple WAN links, simplifying WAN architecture, reducing reliance on MPLS, and improving SaaS performance by automatically steering traffic based on application policy instead of back hauling all traffic to the data center.

IDC believes the Internet of Things (IoT) will have a huge impact on networking infrastructure, especially at the edge where low latency/ real time control of IoT devices will be needed.

Casemore said that SD-WANs will help companies overcome issues associated with a traditional enterprise WAN, which wasn’t built for cloud and lacks operational efficiently.

In a real world example of SD-WANs for a medical device supplier, Brad noted the goals were:

• Dynamic access to all available bandwidth (underlays)
• Move away from using relatively expensive MPLS circuits for voice traffic
• Prioritize business-critical cloud apps ahead of nonproduction apps/traffic
• Need for greater visibility –quickly remediate issues and respond to evolving application/service needs

Benefits cited were the following:
• Improved resilience
• Better application performance and availability
• Cost-effective bandwidth utilization
• Better visibility (faster troubleshooting/remediation and proactive planning)
• IT department and network team now contributing to the business of making and shipping products quickly

IDC sees SD-WAN evolving to incorporate more intent based networking and intelligent automation, with business intent consistently applied to application delivery and performance, he said.

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Editor’s Note: Intent-based networking is a hot buzzword in the industry right now, generally describing technology that uses automation and machine learning to implement business policy with little or no human intervention.  Many believe that intelligent automation will be how business intent is applied to application delivery and network performance across the WAN.

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Brad also suggested the following additional attributes for future SD-WANs
▪ Machine Learning and AI – SD-WAN must become cognitive, proactive, and ultimately self-driving, continuously adapting to changing conditions
▪ Pervasive Security – Applications automatically steered over appropriate links and to appropriate security devices.   Secure segmentation provided on a per -application basis.
▪ Stepping stone toward SD-branch

“This is all moving us toward the software-defined (SD)-branch.  SD-WAN serves as the precursor and serves as the essential conduit to SD-branch and network as a service (NaaS) at the edge,” Casemore said.

In the SD-branch, routing, firewall, and WAN optimization are provided as virtual functions in a cloud-like NaaS model, replacing expensive hardware. Management is automated and services can be easily adjusted as business needs change, Casemore said.

IDC believes telcos will use SD-branch to provide virtual CPE and unversal CPE services as per this slide from IDC:

 

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Sidebar on SD-branch from a recent Network World article:

The branch network is a critical piece of the IT infrastructure for most distributed organizations.  The branch network is responsible for providing reliable, high quality communications to and from remote locations. It must be secure, easy to deploy, able to be managed centrally and cost effective.  Requirements for branch networks continue to evolve with needs for increased bandwidth, quality of service, security and support for IoT.

SDN and network virtualization technologies have matured to the point where they can deliver significant benefits for branch networks.  For example, SD-WAN technology is rapidly being deployed to improve the quality of application delivery and reducing operational complexity.  SD-WAN suppliers are rapidly consolidating branch network functions and have reduced (or eliminated) the need for branch routers and WAN optimization.

The most compelling argument for SD-Branch is operational agility. IT organizations can rapidly deploy and provision a network branch-in-a-box solution for new locations.  Via a centralized management console, they can control and adjust all branch network and security functions.

Reducing or eliminating the need for trained IT personnel to visit remote branch locations results in significant cost and time savings. SD-Branch also promises to reduce hardware costs by deploying software on consolidated hardware as compared to many separate appliances.

Other SD-Branch benefits include:

  • Decreased cost of support and maintenance contracts because fewer vendors will be involved.
  • The ability to right-size hardware requirements for each branch thanks to software virtualization.
  • A smaller hardware footprint, which is ideal for space-constrained branches.
  • Network performance scalability. As network requirements change, the performance of any function can be tuned up or down by changing processor allocation or adding hardware resources.
  • Lower power consumption because one power-efficient platform replaces many appliances.

Over time the SD-Branch will be easier to deploy, less complex to manage, and more responsive to changing requirements at the branch.  The cost benefits in CAPEX and OPEX could be significant as the technology matures.

The broader concept of SD-Branch is still in its early stages.  During 2018, we will see a number of suppliers introduce their SD-Branch solutions.  These initial SD-Branch implementations will primarily be single-vendor and may lack state-of-the-art technology in some applications.

IT leaders should carefully evaluate the benefits of the SD-Branch architecture.   Migration to SD-Branch will likely require significant changes to the existing branch network and may require a forklift upgrade.  SD-Branch suppliers should be evaluated on their current and near-future technology, technology partnerships (e.g. security), and deployment options (do it yourself, channel partners, and managed solutions).

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Brad believes that SD-branch is inevitable.  He provided the following rationale for that:

▪SD-Branch will be enabled by SD-WAN overlays
▪ SD-WAN will be integral component of SD-Branch, but latter will include other
virtualized (perhaps containerized) network/security services
▪ Automated provisioning, management, and orchestration results in SD-Branch that
yields dynamic network as a service (NaaS)
• Network and security services added or modified as needed
• Results in CapEx savings (separate hardware appliances no longer need for each network
function)
• Network operating costs are lower, minimized need for branch IT
• Provisioning is far more agile, resulting in faster time to revenue/business outcome
▪ It’s not enough to have virtual network appliances
• Virtual appliances are still appliances architecturally
• SD-Branch gets us to cloud-like NaaS at the branch/remote office

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IDC Prediction: Edge IT goes mainstream in 2022, displacing 80% of existing edge appliances.

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IDC’s Essential Guidance for Users:

  • Consider the role and value of the network not just in terms of connectivity, but in how it can contribute to intelligence at the edge.
  • Look for edge-networking solutions that abstract management complexity, provide application-centric automation, speed provisioning, and ensure application availability and security.
  • Ensure your intelligent-edge network evolves to a NaaS model, in which virtualized network and security services are dynamically provisioned as needed. The edge network must be as agile as the apps/services it supports.

IDC’s Essential Guidance for Suppliers:

  • Continually enhanced intelligent network automation and orchestration to reduce operational complexity and provide network agility.
  • Leverage ML/AI as means to the end goal of providing increasingly actionable visibility that loops back to feed intent/policy and allows for proactive remediation.
  • Provide for true NaaS at the intelligent edge, incorporating a full range of virtualized network and network-security services (through ecosystem partnerships).

 

 

 

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