“IBM Cloud® for Telecommunications provides the first high trust, unified hybrid architecture to address the fundamental transformation challenges facing telecommunications operators today.”
“We are excited to launch the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications – an open, hybrid cloud architecture designed to help telecommunications providers address the specific challenges of the highly-regulated industry: accelerating business transformation, enhancing digital client engagement and improving agility as they modernize their enterprise applications and infrastructure to unlock the power of 5G and edge,” IBM’s Howard Boville wrote in a blog post.
IBM is expanding its presence in the telecom market with a new ecosystem of 35+ partners to help communication service providers virtualize their networks. Companies such as Nokia, Samsung, Juniper Networks and Intel have agreed to help operators take advantage of the new IBM Cloud Satellite platform based on Red Hat OpenShift and deploy the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications services in the cloud, on premises or at the edge.
According to a recent IBV study, 60% of Communications Service Provider (CSP) leaders surveyed agree that they must virtualize their entire network across edge locations, but only half of them are prepared to virtualize in a cloud-native environment. Built on IBM Cloud Satellite, currently in beta, and leveraging Red Hat OpenShift, clients can deploy IBM Cloud services anywhere: on the cloud, on premises or at the edge, while addressing industry-specific requirements and data protection.
The IBM Telco Cloud platform integrates and extends IBM Edge Application Manager and IBM Telco Network Cloud Manager to help reduce network-related infrastructure costs, increase automation, speed deployment of next gen services, and deliver new consumer and enterprise value. The holistic hybrid cloud offering will be complemented by our ecosystem partners’ software and technology, and enable mission critical workloads to be managed consistently from the network core to the edge to position telecom providers to extract more value from their data while they drive innovation for their customers.
Ecosystems fuel platforms, and because the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications is built on an open architecture, a large ecosystem of partners can enhance it with their own solutions in addition to providing services for it – and this is an important distinction. In order for clients to get our best technology with the most scale and flexibility at the start, we’ve built the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications using Red Hat OpenShift, and this strategy positions partners as the engine to drive a multitude of possibilities for clients.
The partners spans numerous categories, including network equipment providers, independent software vendors, software-as-a-service providers and hardware partners. Partners include Cisco, Adva, Enghouse, Dell, Equinix, Palo Alto Networks, Spirent, Altiostar and Affirmed Networks.
“We are happy to team up with IBM to develop 5G solutions at the telecom edge, with Red Hat OpenShift. We believe that our service provider customers will benefit greatly from having an additional choice to quickly and efficiently deploy private 5G networks,” said Jane Rygaard, Head of Edge Cloud, Nokia. “The transition to 5G will be a key step for industries to deliver on their digital transformation plans. Having multiple options of cloud-based solutions will help our industry build this path forward.”
“Samsung is committed to helping enterprises tackle the unique challenges of today’s market by utilizing the latest mobile innovations and advanced network solutions,” said KC Choi, EVP and Head of Global Mobile B2B Team, Mobile Communications Business, Samsung Electronics. “We are excited to work with IBM and Red Hat to develop new user experiences for business based on transformative technologies like 5G, IoT and AI to help drive efficiency and streamline operations.”
“Cisco is excited to bring our industry leading compute, security, and Service Provider solutions to the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications,” said Keith Dyer, VP for IBM Strategic Alliance. “We are delighted to expand our 20+ year partnership with IBM and bring the power of our joint solutions to our mutual customers.”
IBM says their partner ecosystem will provide customers with a wide range of ways to leverage the platform to enable them to deliver next generation 5G and Edge services, deploy and manage new cloud capabilities, and enrich relationships through AI-driven engagement. Those committing to join our growing ecosystem are listed below alongside descriptions about how they are helping customers today, or how we expect to collaborate on IBM Cloud for Telecommunications:
- ADVA Optical Networking SE is contributing low latency 5G access and transport solutions, optical backbones, Network Function Virtualization (NFV), sync and timing, and disaggregated cell site gateways.
- Affirmed Networks, Inc. enables operators to transform the economics of deploying and scaling mobile networks with its complete portfolio of open, cloud-native, 5G solutions.
- Altiostar will provide 4G and 5G open virtualized RAN (Open vRAN) software that supports open interfaces and virtualizes the radio access baseband functions to build a disaggregated multi-vendor, web-scale, cloud-based mobile network.
- Altran, Part of Capgemini, provides 5G solutions (vRAN, Core, Transport, Edge platform & marketplace), advanced Edge applications for industries and deep 5G System Integration & Network Engineering expertise.
- Assima delivers powerful applications training at scale, leveraging its patented cloning technology to create immersive learner experiences.
- Cisco is providing security, compute and Service Provider solutions.
- Dell Technologies. An essential technology company in the data era, Dell Technologies is enabling Telecom network operators to extend their capabilities, moving beyond today’s connectivity to offer new enterprise services that will ignite broad industry innovations and create new revenue streams.
- Dubber’s Voice Intelligence Cloud plans to integrate and be interoperable with IBM Cloud for Telecommunications, to help enable providers to deliver next generation Unified Call Recording and Voice AI Services on one cloud platform.
- Enghouse Networks. Through IBM Cloud, Enghouse Networks offers Telecommunications service providers the ability to Plan, Design, Engineer, Provision, Operate, Monitor, Protect and simplify network complexity in a vendor-agnostic, hybrid cloud network environment.
- Equinix, Inc. plans to host the IBM Cloud for Telecommunications solution on its globally distributed automated bare metal platform.
- F5 Networks Inc. contributes traffic management, security for layers 2-7 and Kubernetes ingress control along with other virtual infrastructure solutions to enhance and support application services in the telco network cloud.
- Hewlett Packard Enterprise delivers a leading, comprehensive portfolio of cloud-enabled software, carrier-grade services, and open, secure infrastructure offerings to accelerate innovation for telco cloud and edge solutions.
- Intel brings a broad ecosystem, enabling new use cases and usage models from the edge to the cloud. Emphasizing an open-based and innovative approach helps to accelerate deployments that are built on Intel technologies with performance and security in mind.
- Juniper Networks Inc. Contrail is an end-to-end software-based network architecture delivering secure, consistent policy to applications regardless of their location and the physical underlay.
- Kaloom offers a fully programmable and automated cloud networking solution that is disrupting how edge and data center networks are built, managed and operated.
- Lenovo’s purpose-built edge servers and storage along with Lenovo’s infrastructure automation software (LOC-A) have been validated with IBM edge application manager to provide easy to consume edge infrastructure.
- Linux Foundation Networking (LFN) facilitates collaboration and operational excellence across open source networking projects
- MATRIXX Software provides a highly performant network application for charging and monetization of network resources.
- Mavenir helps wireless service providers with comprehensive end to end software applications that transforms their networks to run on the cloud.
- Metaswitch, a Microsoft company, provides cloud native IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) network functions that help enable the deployment of highly scalable rich communication services on Red Hat OpenShift.
- Movius provides mobile-unified communication software that enables frontline employees to securely communicate with their clients across compliant digital voice and messaging channels.
- NetApp, Inc. helps customers simplify the adoption and readiness of 5G by providing advanced data services to enable hybrid cloud environments that extend to the Edge, and by integrating these data services with container orchestration platforms such as OpenShift and IBM Cloud Pak solutions.
- NETSCOUT Systems provides visibility of digital services to prevent or resolve performance and security problems regardless of the technologies involved. We call it Visibility without Borders.
- Nokia and IBM plan to deploy a fully functioning cloud-based 5G network on the IBM Cloud infrastructure, designed to help service providers to quickly deploy and deliver private 5G solutions to their Enterprise customers
- Nuance Communications, Inc.’s enterprise solutions power over 31 billion intelligent customer interactions annually with cloud-native, AI-powered customer engagement technology to deliver industry-best digital, voice, and biometric security innovations.
- O-RAN ALLIANCE. As a member of the O-RAN ALLIANCE, IBM Cloud for Telecommunication will help to transform the radio access networks towards open, intelligent, virtualized and fully interoperable RAN.
- Palo Alto Networks, Inc. for Zero Trust 5G Security.
- Portworx by Pure Storage will provide a platform of complementary data services for data rich applications running on OpenShift on IBM Satellite, including high availability, data protection, data security, multi-cloud mobility and automated capacity management required to run enterprise applications in production.
- Red Hat will help enable the IBM Cloud for Telecommunication Ecosystem partners to run their solutions on Red Hat OpenShift and Red Hat OpenStack Platform.
- Robin.io’s cloud-native solution for Telco provides end-to-end automation for the deployment, scaling, and lifecycle management of any data- or network-intensive applications – all the way from RAN, Core, Edge, and OSS/BSS on Kubernetes.
- Samsung, IBM, and Red Hat are collaborating to bring AI-driven solutions for clients transforming to Industry 4.0 and beyond by leveraging the power of secure 5G devices, cloud-native 5G networks, and advanced edge computing platforms.
- SevOne, a Turbonomic Company, delivers network performance management solutions with modern monitoring and analytics.
- Sinefa plans to provide Digital Experience Monitoring for remote workers and SD-WAN by leveraging the IBM Telco Cloud.
- Spirent delivers automated test and assurance solutions to accelerate the design, development and deployment of 5G, cloud and virtualized networks.
- THALES Cloud Licensing and Protection helps organizations protect their most sensitive data and software, secure the cloud and achieve compliance through advanced encryption, access management and software licensing solutions.
- TM Forum will be working with IBM Cloud for Telecommunication to help unlock the possibilities of 5G by enabling the industry to build self-sustaining networks
- Travelping accelerates the provision of mobile 2G to 5G Networks, the turnkey solutions to the Telecommunications, Automotive, IoT, Manufacturing, Energy, Financial Services, and Hospitality businesses.
- Turbonomic Application Resource Management (ARM) helps automatically assure applications get the resources they need to perform, no matter where they run or how they are architected.
- Zerto will integrate with IBM Cloud Satellite as an embedded solution providing data protection, disaster recovery and mobility solutions.
- Wipro will launch a solution suite built with IBM Edge Application Manager to help clients leverage 5G and Edge for enterprise use cases.
- HCL’s IBM Ecosystem Unit will help clients, including those in regulated industries such as telecommunications, to develop digital and cloud-native solutions with IBM Cloud Paks.
Article below written by Liliane Offredo-Zreik and Dr. Mark H Mortensen of ACG Research
[Note that the IEEE Techblog content manager (since April 2009) does not agree with the theme of this article. We believe that the only really big customers of virtualization and open source hardware/software are the largest tier 1 telcos (like AT&T, Telefonica, etc) and the big cloud companies (like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Alibaba, Tencent, etc).
- One of the big problems with network virtualization is that you have a single point of failure (the server running virtual network functions) and also a much larger attack surface for cyber attacks.
- The biggest obstacles to using open source hardware and software are systems integration, multi-vendor interoperability and compatibility and tech support, especially related to failure isolation and recovery. Other issues with deploying open source include performance (vs purpose built hardware/firmware/software) and OPEX associated with integrating and maintaining hardware/software from multiple vendors.
However, we like to present different views and provide balanced coverage of telecom tech topics like open networking and open source hardware/software. So please enjoy the below article and comment in the Comment box below it.]
Posted by: Anasia D’mello. Article written by Liliane Offredo-Zreik and Dr. Mark H Mortensen of ACG Research.
Until recently, network technology vendors to communication service providers (CSPs) had a well-established competitive market position with brand loyalty, long-standing customer relationships, and well entrenched proprietary solutions. However, an inexorable move to software-based (virtualised) solutions, combined with the increasing prevalence of open-source resources, is disrupting the market dynamics and will have profound implications for the industry structure.
Traditionally, telecom network technology vendors supplied bespoke solutions, typically consisting of hardware racks populated with purpose-built circuit boards that performed highly specialised tasks, complemented by highly customised software, with complex back office systems to manage these systems and the applications that run on them. These solutions were supplemented by extensive professional services resources, and typically involved regular software upgrades, and, less frequently hardware ones.
This, combined with the long cycles involved in introducing new solutions, or in upgrading existing ones due to long testing cycles, created a relatively closed ecosystem with high barriers to entry and high switching costs. It also drove costs up, as it increased the bargaining power of suppliers; it limited the number of competitors and stifled innovation because younger companies with fewer resources found it difficult to penetrate the ecosystem.
The disruptive nature of virtualization
The inexorable migration to software-based, virtualized solutions is disrupting this ecosystem, with profound long-term consequences. Increasingly, telecom operators are introducing virtualized software solutions in their operating environments. Their long-term goal is of a fully software-driven ecosystem with software-only network elements running on commodity off-the-shelf servers (COTS) or open source hardware, hosted in local offices, in distributed data centres or in a cloud-compute environment.
The software-based systems are not less complex, and the incumbent vendors are rushing to either port their existing solutions on COTS or redeveloping parts of those systems to become software based. It also allows new software vendors to enter the market without the long design, manufacturing, and logistics supply chains of traditional hardware.
At the same time, the CSP traditional development/deployment paradigm, which was largely based on the waterfall model and involved protracted cycles, is slowly making way to an agile framework, based on the Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment model where incremental changes are introduced on an on-going basis, enabled by a microservices-based, modularised architecture.
This paradigm allows minimally viable products to be introduced and then rapidly enhanced, reducing the entrenched foothold of existing suppliers and opening the way for new entrants, further transforming the market dynamics.
By reducing the barriers to entry, virtualization is adding new vendors and new delivery mechanisms that bypass the traditional supply chains: New virtual network software companies, public cloud companies, and the network operators themselves.
- New virtual network software companies: New software-centric companies have entered the market over the last several years. Examples include Affirmed Networks, Altiostar and Parallel Wireless that offer a software-based mobile core solution, Etiya that provides a nearly fully virtualised mobile solution (running on an AWS public cloud infrastructure), and Metaswitch that offers a wide range of mobile and fixed network software-based network technologies. Other traditional software vendors to operators, such as HPE, are also entering the virtualised network equipment market.
- Public cloud companies: Cloud providers are increasingly tapping into the convergence of cloud and communication networks. Recently, Microsoft bought Affirmed Networks, which offers fully virtualized, cloud-native mobile network solutions for telecom operators. This acquisition will enable Microsoft to become a major telecom vendor in the mobile and nascent private 5G markets. In days past, communication service providers (CSP) used to build their own data centres, but virtualisation technologies enable cloud providers, such as Microsoft, to offer the same capabilities, mostly as services, on their public computing and storage infrastructure at much lower initial cost and with more flexibility.
- DIY: Some CSPs are hiring software developers in droves and are beginning to develop their own solutions. Not only that, but some operators are also transforming themselves into vendors, offering their solutions to their peer operators. A case in point is Comcast Corp. The company’s mantra has become “software eats the world.” Its newly opened Comcast Technology Center serves as “the dedicated home for our company’s growing workforce of more than 4,000 technologists, engineers and software architects.” Comcast has developed its Xfinity X1 entertainment service in-house; it is also syndicating it to cable operators, including Cox and Shaw and Rogers of Canada. At the same time, the company has developed a software-defined platform (ActiveCore) to power its business services, and it is not unfathomable that it would look to syndicate it at some point in the future.
Others CSPs are expanding their software capabilities for internal, and external, use. Reliance Jio’s parent company, Reliance Industries, bought Radisys, a US-based provider of open telecom solutions, while AT&T’s expansion of its software capabilities is well-known in the industry.
The role of open-source collaboration
Most operators do not have the capacity nor the ability to undertake massive development efforts, particularly because some of the solutions they need are highly complex. However, open-source hardware and software and disaggregated network elements go a long way to alleviate the need to undertake end to end developments.
Recent disaggregated network element (DNE) projects, some including open-source hardware and software, have been created by CSPs throughout the various telecom equipment domains, from radio backhaul to the core networks, optical access and transport equipment, and edge computing environments, among many others. DNEs are essentially public open source Lego-like building blocks that run on standard computing and storage hardware or programmable ASICs that standardise designs and that can be used to create solutions. They enable CSPs to select the best combination of commoditised hardware and specialised software components. DNEs are designed to reduce vendor lock-ins and further lower the barriers to entry for new vendors, increasing competition in sales and support.
The operator–vendor new relationship framework
New engagement models are emerging. The traditional supplier/customer relationship is making way to a cooperative engagement model, where the operator and the vendor work hand in hand on developing solutions. Furthermore, unlike traditional models where the vendor is paid upfront and is further compensated for on-going support, new frameworks are emerging where the vendor is compensated based on the success of the operator. One such arrangement was the Infinite Broadband Unlocked that Cisco introduced in 2018 where it charged cable operators based on broadband consumption over their networks, rather than upfront licenses. Such arrangements are facilitated by software-based solutions and are likely to become more prevalent over time, further disrupting market dynamics.
Toward the future
The commoditisation of the hardware components of the network will reduce the vendors’ margins and potentially reduce overall CSPs’ costs. However, the CSPs will have to bear the additional costs of testing multivendor arrangements, configuring, and managing the larger number of network components, as well as securing the entire network.
These additional costs will eat into the potential savings and are expected to require a hefty dose of automation. Such automation will come from vendors, systems integrators, as well as from additional open-source initiatives such as the ONAP program, the open-source version of the AT&T ECOMP home-grown system that seeks to provide real-time, policy-driven software automation of AT&T’s network management functions.
It is too early in the game to scope the full impact of this unfolding transformation. It is likely that it will increase the speed of innovation and improve the cost structure for operators. At the same time, intense competition may reduce vendors’ margins, decreasing their ability to invest in R&D. However, an increasingly symbiotic relationship between operators and vendors will improve industry dynamics, overall, as it will lead to better targeted solutions, more cost efficiency and improved customer experience.
Technological changes and industry realignment are enabling CSPs to gain greater market control and to reap larger efficiencies by replacing monolithic hardware and software solutions from major vendors with disaggregated networking elements with open-source software on commoditised, standardised hardware, and by adopting co-development models. This will reduce the pricing power of major vendors and compress their margins but may lead to greater innovation in the industry.
The authors are Liliane Offredo-Zreik and Dr. Mark H Mortensen of ACG Research.
About the authors
Liliane Offredo-Zreik (email@example.com @offredo) is a principal analyst with ACG Research. Her areas of coverage include the cable industry, SD-WAN, and communications service provider digital transformation. Prior to her analyst work, she held senior roles in major telecom and cable companies, including Verizon and Time Warner Cable (now Charter) as well as with industry vendors and has been an industry advisor in areas including marketing, strategy, product development and M&A due diligence.
Dr. Mark H Mortensen (firstname.lastname@example.org @DrMarkHM) is an acknowledged industry expert in communications software for the TMT sector, with over 40 years of experience in OSS and BSS specifications, network operations, software architecture, product marketing, and sales enablement. His work has spanned the gamut of technical work at Bell Labs, strategic product evolution at Telcordia, CMO positions at several software vendors, and as a research director at Analysys Mason. He is currently the Communications Software Principal Analyst at ACG Research focusing on network and business automation.
Gartner forecasts that the market for enterprise data networking services in 2020 will be $157.5 billion, broadly unchanged from 2019 (see “Forecast: Enterprise Communications Services, Worldwide, 2017-2023, 4Q19 Update”).
The number of global NSPs included in this Gartner research has increased as more providers have met our revised inclusion criteria. In addition to large global providers, enterprises are increasingly willing to consider smaller providers, including managed service providers with little or no network infrastructure of their own (such as those featured in the “Market Guide for Managed SD-WAN Services”). Alternatively, enterprises may choose a combination of multiple regional providers.
Providers are increasingly focused on providing the managed service platform (e.g., managed SD-WAN and NFV/vCPE); however, they are also more open to “bring your own access” and other flexible sourcing approaches for the network transport components.
The global network service market continues to move toward a more software-driven, as-a-service model, with increasing levels of visibility and self-service via portals and APIs available to enterprise customers.
However, this means providers are reluctant to allow deviations from their standard offerings, because that will require deployment of a custom solution at a higher cost that could rapidly become obsolete in this fast-moving market.
The network buying discussion is gradually moving away from technologies toward outcomes and service levels. Providers continue to improve their SLAs with more-realistic objectives and more-meaningful penalties for failing to meet those objectives, increasingly including the right to cancel the service in the event of chronic breach. Installation lead times — a pain point for many enterprises with global networks — are starting to be covered by standard SLAs, and providers are striving to improve delivery times, although they remain frustrated by third-party/local access providers. The increasing speeds of cellular services are making this technology more useful as a rapid deployment (interim) solution. In addition, it provides a truly diverse backup option. However, the hype around 5G cellular replacing fixed connectivity should be treated with caution, due to maturity issues — especially coverage limitations.
Electronic quoting and ordering are increasingly widespread, with electronic bonding between the global providers and their local access providers. Self-service ordaining and/or provisioning, as well as the increased visibility of the service being delivered via portals continue to gain momentum. This is blurring the lines between managed services and self-management, to create a spectrum of co-management possibilities.
However, global networks are also becoming more complex, because transport becomes a hybrid of MPLS, internet and Ethernet; cloud endpoints are added; and SD-WAN and NFV technology are added. In addition, the internet, especially using broadband or cellular access, is an inherently less predictable service than MPLS. Visibility capabilities, sometimes referred to as performance analytics, can help by enabling enterprises see the actual performance of their applications.
Thanks to the continual investment in enhancing the customer experience, customer satisfaction with global NSPs is improving.
New global network proposals are predominantly for managed SD-WAN services based on a hybrid mix of MPLS and internet transport, with different applications using the most appropriate link type. Most providers support a small portfolio of SD-WAN vendors, because the market is more fragmented and differentiated than the router market it is replacing. Some providers offer network-based SD-WAN gateways, allowing traffic to use the internet for access, but use the providers’ higher-quality, long-haul backbones.
Enterprises’ adoption of cloud IT service delivery remains key to transforming their WAN architectures. Fortunately for enterprises, global NSPs have deployed a range of capabilities to address enterprises’ cloud connectivity needs (see “Five Key Factors to Prepare Your WAN for Multicloud Connectivity”).
The providers in this research offer carrier-based cloud interconnect from their MPLS and Ethernet networks to leading CSPs, such as Amazon, Microsoft and Google. Most offer connection to additional cloud providers as well. The key differentiators are the specific cloud providers and the cities connected, and the ability to add virtualized services (e.g., security) into the cloud connection points.
Managed SD-WAN services typically offer the option of local internet access (split tunneling) from every site, which is especially useful for access to SaaS applications, such as Microsoft Office 365. Perimeter security can be provided on-site or as a cloud-based service. An option for managed SD-WAN services is for the provider to deploy network-based SD-WAN gateways to facilitate interconnection between SD-WAN and non-SD-WAN networks, improve scalability and avoid the need for traffic to traverse long distances over the internet. Alternatively enhanced internet backbone services may be available to improve the performance of cloud service access over the internet and to improve end-to-end performance, when using the internet as a transport link.
An increasing number of global WANs incorporate managed application visibility and/or WAN optimization, with some providers now offering application-level visibility by default. SD-WAN services, which operate based on application-level policies, also typically offer inherently higher levels of application visibility.
Network functions, such as edge routing, SD-WAN, security, WAN optimization and visibility, can be delivered as on-site appliances. However, many providers prefer to offer these as VNFs, running in NFV service nodes in their POPs or in uCPEs, which are essentially industry-standard servers, deployed at the customers locations, supporting one or more virtual functions. This makes it easy to rapidly change the functions deployed in the network and is also usually consumed on an “as a service” basis with a monthly subscription fee for each function.
Ethernet WAN services (virtual private line and virtual private LAN services) remain more niche. They are principally used for data center interconnection; high-performance connections, including extranets (such as trading networks); or for sites that are geographically close (i.e., Metro Ethernet). Different combinations of these services can be used to obtain different service levels appropriate to each enterprise location.
Providers are starting to offer NoD services, where bandwidth can be adjusted via a portal or APIs. Some of these services support multiple services (e.g., MPLS and internet) on a single access line, and also allow dynamic control of cloud connectivity.
WAN access is evolving, with traditional leased-line access, such as T1 or E1 lines, no longer proposed in new deals, except when no other form of access is available, such as in rural locations or some emerging markets.
Pricing for these legacy service types is typically increasing, and, in some cases, the services are reaching the end of their life.
Traditional access lines have largely been replaced by optical Ethernet access at 10 Mbps, 100 Mbps, 1 Gbps or 10 Gbps. The scale economics of Ethernet access are very good, with each tenfold increase in speed, typically increasing cost by only two to three times. As a result, in developed markets, enterprises now tend to purchase access lines with much higher speeds than they initially require, with the port capacity limited to their current needs. This allows them to easily and quickly upgrade capacity in response to changing requirements.
For smaller, less critical or remote locations, broadband (increasingly, “superfast broadband,” such as very-high-speed DSL [VDSL], cable modem or passive optical network [PON]) is the access technology of choice, despite having no SLAs or poorer SLAs than Ethernet access. When enterprises require large numbers of broadband connections, they can sometimes find that they are able to get better pricing than that offered by global service providers by sourcing broadband access directly or from aggregators. Many providers now support “bring your own broadband.” This refers to the service provider delivering managed services over broadband sourced by the enterprise.
Finally, cellular connectivity (4G) and, in the future, 5G, is increasingly being used for backup, rapid deployment or temporary locations, although it does not offer SLAs. As with broadband, enterprises may be able to get attractive deals for data-only mobile services themselves, which will then be managed by their global provider.
Most global WANs are delivered on a managed service basis, with the on-site devices, such as routers, security appliances and WAN optimizers, provided and managed by the service provider. Transport links are usually sourced from the managed service provider, but might also be sourced by the enterprise, who would then give the managed service provider operational responsibility for them. Although more U.S.-headquartered multinationals are moving to managed network services, a significant number still manage their networks in-house and only source transport links from their global providers.
As more network functions, such as SD-WAN application policies or NoD bandwidth, are controllable via the providers’ portals and APIs, networks are moving more to a co-managed reality. In this case, responsibilities for various network management functions are divided between the provider and the enterprise.
Downward pressure on global network service prices is relentless (e.g., global MPLS services are undergoing unit price declines averaging 10% per year, although with strong regional variance). Gartner has produced research summarizing and predicting pricing trends for different services and geographies (see “Network Service Price Trends: What You Need to Know to Save Money on Your Next Contract Negotiation”). The response from providers varies, with some focusing on extending their own networks, while others are relying heavily on network-to-network interface (NNI) connections to partners to improve their regional coverage. Most providers are increasingly using carrier-neutral communications hubs, such as those operated by Equinix, to allow them to cost-effectively interconnect with multiple access, backbone and cloud providers.
These hubs, particularly when combined with NFV and/or SD-WAN, have dramatically reduced the level of investment required to be competitive in the global network service market. This has allowed smaller providers, including some of the more recent entrants to this Magic Quadrant, to offer solutions competitive with those of the largest providers. However, maintaining a consistent set of service features and user experiences across these different elements remains a challenge.
The network service market is undergoing a major transformation, with new generations of software-based network technologies enabling new services and new business models that are less focused on large-scale infrastructure. To reflect these trends, this Magic Quadrant focuses on transformational technologies and/or approaches that address the future needs of end users, as well as today’s market.
Gartner defines the global network service market as the provision of fixed corporate networking services with worldwide coverage.
Current global network services evaluated in this Magic Quadrant include:
- WAN Transport Services — These include Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) service, Ethernet services and internet services, such as dedicated internet access (DIA), broadband and cellular.
- Carrier-Based Cloud Interconnect (CBCI) — This is a direct connection between a service provider’s enterprise network services, such as MPLS and/or Ethernet services, and the private connection option of one or more cloud service providers (CSPs). CBCI can be established directly between the network service provider (NSP) and the cloud provider or via a cloud exchange, such as Equinix Cloud Exchange.
- Managed WAN Services — These include managed software-defined WAN (SD-WAN). Although a minority of enterprises are renewing their managed router networks, most new managed global network deployments in 2019 were managed SD-WAN networks using a mix of MPLS and internet transport. This is a trend Gartner expects to continue. An option for managed SD-WAN services is for the provider to deploy network-based SD-WAN gateways to facilitate interconnection between SD-WAN and non-SD-WAN networks, improve scalability and avoid the need for traffic to traverse long distances over the internet.
Emerging global network services that will be evaluated include:
- Network On Demand (NoD) — NoD services from NSPs enable enterprises to make real-time changes to access/port bandwidth, change the WAN service types delivered over a network port and, in some cases, add and remove endpoints (e.g., connections to cloud providers). This occurs under software control, via the provider’s web portal or APIs.
- Network Function Virtualization (NFV) — NFV is an architecture to deliver multiple network functions, including routing, firewall, SD-WAN, WAN optimization, visibility and voice as software, termed virtual network functions (VNFs). NFV enables enterprises to rapidly (in minutes) deploy network functionality to locations where it is required. This functionality is the replacement for purpose-built hardware devices, such as routers, security devices or WAN optimizers. NFV can be implemented on universal customer premises equipment (uCPE; see below) or in NFV service nodes, located in the provider’s network, or in colocation facilities. NFV enables network functions to be activated on demand (and deactivated when no longer required) and consumed on an “as a service” basis. This can improve the agility and cost-effectiveness of the enterprise WAN.
- Virtual Customer Premises Equipment (vCPE) — This is the use of industry-standard x86 devices (uCPE), rather than function-specific appliances, to deliver enterprise network edge functions, including WAN edge routing, SD-WAN, WAN optimization, visibility and security functions (e.g., firewalls).
In addition, it is highly desirable for providers to offer related network services, including managed WAN optimization, managed application visibility, and managed, network-related security services. Integrators, virtual operators and carriers may be included, but only if they will bid for stand-alone WAN deals and provide and manage offerings that include the WAN connectivity.
During the past 12 months, Gartner has seen continued changes in enterprise requirements and buying criteria for global networks. Enterprises are placing an ever-growing emphasis on their need for greater agility and especially enabling their organization’s adoption of cloud services and the Internet of Things (IoT). They are increasingly willing to consider smaller providers and innovative services, particularly those that can be consumed on an as-a-service basis. Therefore, they are placing less emphasis on supplier size, network scale and the availability of large numbers of provider staff to deliver customized capabilities.
NSPs are taking advantage of the marketplaces created by carrier hubs, such as those provided by Equinix and Digital Reality. This enables them to source access that’s distance-insensitive, at the national or even regional level, reducing the need to deploy large numbers of network points of presence (POPs). POPs are increasingly acting as gateways between access and backbone network services of various types, and cloud providers. In addition, they are serving as locations where virtualized network services, such as security, can be applied.
Internet services, including broadband, DIA and cellular, are growing in importance as transport options, alongside the continued use of MPLS and Ethernet services. New services such as managed SD-WAN, NoD services, NFV and vCPE, which transform the enterprise networking market, are being deployed to improve the agility of providers’ network solutions. Many of these services require a platform-based approach to delivering services, increasing the trend to move away from customized solutions, toward standard, off-the-shelf managed services, consumed on an as-a-service basis.
We are seeing a distinct split in providers’ attitudes toward NFV and vCPE. Some providers are “doubling down” on the technology, making it their default edge device offering. Others are still focusing on appliances at the network edge, frequently accompanied by network-based NFV, especially for services such as security.
Although delivering against a strong technological roadmap is important, it is equally important that services be delivered with good operational performance to implement and sustain them.
The inclusion and exclusion criteria for this year’s Magic Quadrant (see Figure 1), although similar to prior years, have been adjusted to reflect these trends.
Figure 1. Magic Quadrant for Network Services
Source: Gartner (February 2020)
Digital business initiatives are placing increasing demands on the enterprise network, increasing the needs for bandwidth (between 20% and 30% annually), reliability and performance. Video, live and stored, is driving significant increases in bandwidth, whereas IoT typically requires greater reliability.
A growing proportion of enterprise applications are being delivered as cloud services — infrastructure as a service (IaaS), platform as a service (PaaS) and SaaS. This requires incorporation of cloud endpoints into the network and a burgeoning need for data center-to-cloud and cloud-to-cloud connectivity.
Above all, digital business requires that enterprise networks become significantly more agile, to allow the rapid accommodation of new endpoints, new applications and new network capabilities. However, enterprises continually need to do all of this, while optimizing their WAN expenditure.
To address these requirements service providers are deploying a range of new networking technologies. SD-WAN is now the default offering for new network deployments and major refreshes, while the virtualization of network edge functions, using NFV and vCPE, is gradually becoming more common. CBCI is also mainstream, complemented by emerging NoD services.
Growing use of the internet as a network transport option, together with cloud endpoints, is resulting in performance uncertainty, and is driving significant demand for application visibility services.
Fortunately, enterprises can choose from a wide selection of solution providers, most operating across multiple geographies. This breadth is allowing enterprises to choose between one, two or many providers to find the best solution for their specific needs. These decisions will be based on geographic requirements, the specific service required and the preferred sourcing approach (i.e., the enterprise’s desire to manage multiple networks from multiple providers). Competition continues to drive down unit prices for global networking services. However, in a market in which there are no meaningful price lists, enterprises still need to use competitive procurement practices and strong negotiations to obtain the best prices.
AT&T is powering Exide’s digital transformation with its FlexWare network virtualization solution. AT&T FlexWare is one of AT&T’s core software-centric services from the company’s “edge solutions portfolio.” AT&T says its near real-time service cuts long set up times and complex processes.
FlexWare enables businesses to launch virtual network functions (VNFs) to improve productivity and communication across its geographically dispersed physical sites. With FlexWare, AT&T can move the VNFs, such as firewall or security VNFs, to devices on a company’s network.
“Our technology will give Exide the support it needs to continue operating at high standards and to prepare for new opportunities in a 5G world,” said John Vladimir Slamecka, AT&T Region President for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. “We’re building a platform that is ready for new data hungry apps made possible with the arrival of 5G; such as AR and VR. That’s why we are moving compute resources closer to the network edge, opening the door to new experiences and opportunities.”
AT&T’s FlexWare, for virtualized network edge services, is now in place across Exide’s global locations, including throughout Europe, North America and Asia Pacific. FlexWare at the edge allows Exide to use both highly secure MPLS and internet access services for its network needs. Starting with network routing, Exide is able to access all wide area network components utilizing high bandwidth capabilities to help provide greater flexibility as the needs of each change over time. AT&T FlexWare also allows Exide to fulfill its centralized IT requests without needing local site support.
Exide is a battery and energy storage company which was founded 130 years ago. It manufactures and recycles batteries for a broad range of industrial and transportation applications including cars, boats, forklifts and uninterrupted power units. The company has more than 10,000 employees located across 80 countries.
“Our global presence in today’s fast paced technology environment presents the unique challenge of blending reliable legacy platforms with emerging digital solutions. This requires a data transport infrastructure that supports a broad number of traditional and disruptive applications,” said Brian Woodworth, Exide Chief Information Officer. “AT&T is leading the way as a trusted and visionary provider of network edge solutions, so naturally we turned to AT&T to collaborate with us on our digital journey to become the preferred supplier to our customers across the globe,” he added.
The security landscape is growing increasingly treacherous as hackers of every type continue to evolve their attack strategies to evade detection while maximizing profit from their time and effort. It doesn’t matter if it’s an organized criminal gang looking to make money from ransomware schemes, covert state-sponsored groups attempting to steal data and disrupt operations, or just malevolent individuals trying to impress others in the hacker community—every bad actor is smarter than they were last year, and better equipped to wreak havoc.
However, we wonder if AT&T takes cybersecurity seriously for its own customers, like this author who has experienced two AT&T account unexplained security breaches in the last few months?
AT&T says it is “offering customers like Exide unrivaled visibility and security through people, process and technology allowing them to better protect their global business.” This author certainly hopes that happens!
For more information about AT&T FlexWare (nice video): https://www.business.att.com/solutions/Service/network-services/sdn-nfv/virtual-network-functions/
For more information about AT&T Cybersecurity: https://att.com/security