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SDN and NFV Value in Business Services: Innovations in Network Monetization and Optimization

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White paper submitted to the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) by Mazen Khaddem of Cox Communications and Dr. Loukas Paraschis of Cisco Systems. Paper covers technical reference design in SDN including the role of open source, orchestration and control, and the importance of a hybrid control plane for legacy, multivendor networks.

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SDN and NFV Value in Business Services: Innovations in Network Monetization and Optimization

  1. 1. SDN and NFV value in Business Services. Innovations in Network Monetization and Optimization. A Technical Paper prepared for the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers By Mazen Khaddam Network Architect Cox Atlanta Mazen.Khaddam@cox.com Loukas Paraschis Technology Solution Architect cisco, loukas@cisco.com
  2. 2. Overview The increasingly maturing SDN and NFV innovations offer an important opportunity for service providers to better monetize their networks, by improving the time-to-market, and SLAs guarantees for premium services, as well as the network utilization of volume- based service delivery. This paper outlines the main benefits SDN and NFV can bring to network service delivery, especially for business services, motivating the adoption of SDN and NFV in the network architecture. Most notably, SDN and NFV enhancements to the already ubiquitous cloud model can improve time-to-market, add new functionality, and ensure customer loyalty for applications such as dynamic capacity business VPNs, or policy-based service delivery, at the edge of the network. They also remove many of the legacy constraints among the access, WAN, and the data center, and enable advanced demand engineering, and capacity optimization at the core. To this end, an evolutionary approach to the adoption of SDN is being proposed, based on a “hybrid” control plane architecture that combines the current distributed control- plane routing infrastructure, with a unified “controller” platform that provides new significant network visibility and programmability. The SDN controller capabilities are enhanced by innovations in network protocols, APIs, and most notably new user- defined network applications. The SDN evolution is complemented by the NFV capabilities. NFV services provide the real-time network resource management needed to support new applications to be deployed on-demand, and with the ability to choose where each service may be placed. Equally important, SDN and NFV are enhanced by cross-domain orchestration that can manage service chains across hybrid cloud and data-center (DC) architectures to deliver seamless connectivity between compute services in the enterprise and the cloud.     Contents Growing the revenue of network and cloud services, especially for business customers, is arguably among the highest priorities for network operators in general, and cable service providers in particular. Currently, such services are very often challenged by lengthy provisioning and complicated operations, which usually limit significantly the operators’ ability to fully monetize their network infrastructures, and to compete with over-the-top (OTT) providers for cloud based services. The recent, increasingly maturing SDN and NFV innovations allow service providers to improve their network monetization by improving the time-to-market, and SLAs guarantees for premium services, as well as to optimize their network utilization for volume-based service delivery. This paper outlines the main values that SDN and NFV innovations can bring
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  4. 4. This new architecture offers significant benefits for network service providers in terms of enhanced service provisioning and extending the virtualization innovations in compute and storage, to networking. More specifically, the two most immediate use-cases are:  SDN innovations combined with new network provisioning functionality, most notably those achieved through the innovations of NETCONF protocol and YANG models, can significantly advance the automation of network provisioning, and reduce the time-to-market for new services, allowing substantial operational simplification.  At the same time, substantial benefits arise from the NFV ability to create “virtual” Provider Edge (vPE) and Customer Provider Edge (vCPE) functionality which can be customized to the specific needs of each application. NFV applications can execute in a virtual environment, running over a mix of physical and virtual infrastructure components, and using service chaining (or “forwarding graphs” in the NFV terminology) to link functional blocks together to provide sophisticated service sets tailored to specific users. This is particularly important for business services. It also offers faster time-to-market for new services, and lowers infrastructure costs (both CapEx and OpEx). In this evolved service architecture, compute can take many forms, ranging from large data centers environments, to distributed compute instantiation around the network. When combined with the fast, automated service provisioning of SDN, NFV and cross- domain orchestration (Figure 1), this new architecture gives rise to very interesting monetization and optimization opportunities, allowing network service providers to leverage the network as a key service differentiation advantage, for managed and cloud services. One key such use-case is the ability for optimal placement of cloud services, which is also referred to as “demand engineering”. In this advanced network optimization scenario, a service instance is placed, or content is located, using “global” network awareness (e.g. topology, traffic, etc.) to determine optimal SLA, or network utilization [3]. Demand engineering has been reported to increase the network infrastructure utilization by around 30% in most cases [3]. Until now, slow service provisioning has demotivated most types of fast, let alone dynamic, bandwidth provisioning. Hence, off-line planning, occasionally coupled with some traffic engineering, has addressed sufficiently the traffic management needs of most IP/MPLS networks. As the deployment of cloud services proliferates and is enhanced by faster NFV and SDN provisioning, advanced network control capabilities can optimize the trade-offs between SLA performance and network utilization, and offer some new exciting use-cases for network monetization, as described later in Figure 4. Even before the implementation of such advanced network control capabilities, like traffic placement and demand engineering, SDN offers immediate substantial
  5. 5. operational (OpEx) benefits for network operators. In particular, for cable operators SDN can enable improved business services workflow automation based on a unified control and operating model, common to all network elements. Cable business services can therefore converge with residential services, much more readily than today, allowing for significant OpEx reduction. In the rest of this paper, we outline the key SDN architecture and technology innovations that advance network operations, and business service offerings, and are important in the adoption of a robust SDN architecture. SDN typically refers to a network architecture vision that has been championed by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) [1]. In this vision, data networking equipment and software can separate and abstract the application, control and data plane. The control plane resides centrally, decoupled from the forwarding components which remain distributed. The central controller(s) can enhance network operations by introducing the abilities to:  Maintain full view of the network  Program the network equipment  Provide an abstraction of the network for higher-level applications. Central to SDN evolution are the openness, network simplification, programmability, and abstraction capabilities. This ability for programmatic interaction of the control plane with applications and network elements is indeed the key innovation of the SDN architecture. In the “northbound” direction, the control plane provides a common abstracted view of the network to higher-level applications using APIs. In the “southbound” direction, the controller programs the (physical or virtual) network elements using new or existing network protocols, or APIs. Particularly in service provider environments, an evolutionary architecture needs to accommodate also the existing pre-SDN infrastructure, and hence to extend well beyond the ONF vision. Service Providers have large operational networks and significant investment in OSS/BSS infrastructure. For the SDN evolution to succeed, its adoption cannot compromise existing functionality, the current carrier-class reliability, and the support for the available standardized technologies, and multivendor systems. At the same time, it is also important to enable network differentiated quality of experience to the end-user. A new SDN hybrid control plane (Figure 2), combining the current distributed control plane components residing within network elements, with centralized controllers, offers the best SDN evolution to a network able to enhance customer experience, and allow for service abstraction and capacity optimization.   
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  7. 7. increase infrastructure utilization. A complete such SDN architecture shall include the following four basic building blocks (Figure 3):    SDN Controller(s): the set of software tools, and technologies that offer centralized intelligence, network abstraction (northbound), and programmatic network control (southbound).  Infrastructure: physical and virtual network elements, which in the case of the WAN can also include multiple layers; e.g. extend to optical transport [5].  Application Programming Interfaces: APIs and protocols that enable programmability at multiple levels of the SDN infrastructure. At the lowest level, device level programmatic interfaces and protocols enable SDN control of network elements. Separate, northbound APIs in the SDN architecture allow end-user applications to communicate with the controller layers.  Applications: the most important and novel aspect of SDN that enables network operators or end users to program the network through controller(s). These “top” layer software applications can utilize APIs exposed by the controller to request specific behavior from the network, or gather information about the network. These APIs enable business processes to be programmed and become part of the network operations, and should also facilitate graceful migration and integration with the existing BSS/OSS. Representational State Transfer (REST) APIs have emerged as the de-facto standard framework for the interaction between these applications and the controller layers [6]. Currently, the available, first generation, SDN controllers are application specific and typically designed to interact directly with network, each one independently. For simple network designs, such applications controllers may be acceptable. However, in large networks, and particularly in highly heterogeneous WAN, where the control functions need to interface with many devices using a multitude of protocols, such first generation designs would result in significant additional development effort, and limit scale, as network devices are touched for data retrieval and programming by many different functions. Therefore, the most scalable SDN WAN architecture could benefit from a unified single infrastructure controller that in turn enables all the different higher layer application specific controllers to interact with the network in a common framework. The unified infrastructure controller can then provide a common view of the network, gather and hold network information, provide centralized control functions, and program each network element using the appropriate device level APIs and/or network protocols. This functional separation between “application controllers” and the “infrastructure controller” allows for: 1) A unified infrastructure that provides a single point of contact to the network, both for information retrieval and programming, and 2) Each application controller to not be concerned with the precise mechanisms for interacting with the network, like the device specific API, or protocol applicable in each network element.
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  9. 9. service engineering by removing most complex state from the distributed control- plane [8],  Workflow automation of services or network functions like analytics, policy, optimization, or orchestration [9]. Figure 4 describes the basic implementation of a significant such SDN optimization application specifically for services with well-defined profiles, which include most business services. For such “controllable” services, when the provider does not need to guarantee the exact timing of delivery, e.g. asynchronous bulk data transfers, an intelligent WAN SDN controller can time shift these services away from times of high next utilization (“peaks”) to times of otherwise low network utilization (“valleys”). Alternatively, for services that are controllable but with timing well-defined and inflexible scheduling (e.g. synchronous business data backups), an SDN WAN controller application can instead leverage network information (gathered potentially real-time) on utilization, or failures, or other performance attributes, to identify the optimal routing for this traffic given its specific SLA requirements. The same unified SDN controller then can potentially also program the required LSPs in the network, perhaps by using PCEP as the southbound protocol. A very good example of an actual WAN deployment that leverages such an intelligent SDN implementation to optimize the network delivery of controllable services has been extensively analyzed in [10]. As mentioned in the beginning of this paper, a sophisticated SDN infrastructure enables a network vision where user-defined applications allow optimal placement of each new service instance according to user-defined SLA or network utilization constraints, based on advanced network optimization that leverages “global” network awareness of topology, traffic, or location of the required content, compute, or storage resources, as for example described in [3]. Until now, slow service provisioning has allowed off-line planning, occasionally coupled with traffic engineering, to address sufficiently the traffic management needs of WAN networks. As cloud services deployment proliferates, faster NFV and SDN service provisioning can be significantly enhanced by advanced network control capabilities that optimize the trade-offs between SLA performance and network utilization, allowing for better network monetization. This programmability becomes important for the overall evolution of WAN architectures to the network cloud era of cable and telecom operators [11].     In summary, this paper outlines the main benefits SDN and NFV can bring to network service delivery, especially for business services. Most notably, SDN and NFV enhancements to the already ubiquitous cloud model can add new functionality, and ensure customer loyalty for applications such as dynamic business VPNs, or policy- based service delivery, at the edge of the network. They also remove many of the legacy constraints among the access, WAN, and the data center, and enable more advanced demand engineering, and capacity optimization at the core. An evolutionary approach to the adoption of SDN is being proposed, based on a “hybrid” control plane
  10. 10. architecture that combines the current distributed control-plane routing infrastructure, with a unified SDN “controller” platform that provides new significant network visibility and programmability. The SDN controller capabilities are enhanced by innovations in network protocols, APIs, and most notably new user-defined applications. The SDN evolution is complemented by the NFV capabilities. NFV services provide the real-time network resource management needed to support new applications, deployed on- demand, and with the ability to choose where each service may be placed. Equally important, SDN and NFV are enhanced by common platforms for orchestration that can manage service chains across hybrid cloud and data-center architectures to help deliver seamless connectivity between compute services in the enterprise and the cloud. These increasingly maturing SDN and NFV innovations offer an important opportunity for service providers to better monetize their networks, by improving the time-to-market, and SLAs guarantees for premium services, as well as the network utilization of volume- based service delivery.     Bibliography The authors would like to acknowledge many insightful discussions with colleagues at Cox and Cisco, including Jeff Finkelstein, Simon Spraggs, and Alon Bernstein. 1. https://www.opennetworking.org/sdn-resources/sdn-library/whitepapers 2. http://portal.etsi.org/home.aspx 3. J. Evans, et al “SDN-based traffic management…”, MPLS World Congress 2014 4. M. Horneffer, “IGP Tuning in an MPLS Network”, NANOG 33, February 2005 5. M. Khaddam, et al, Multilayer Network Optimization, invited paper IEEE OFC 2015 6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Representational_state_transfer 7. http://www.opendaylight.org/project/technical-overview 8. http://tools.ietf.org/html/draft-martin-spring-segment-routing-ipv6-use-cases-00 9. D. Ward, “Simplifying the WAN...”, Plenary (d1-08), MPLS World Congress 2014 10. http://cseweb.ucsd.edu/~vahdat/papers/b4-sigcomm13.pdf 11.L. Paraschis “Advancements in Network Architectures…”, pp. 793–817 in Op. Fib. Telecom. VI B, Elsevier 2013. (ISBN 978-0123969606)

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