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Mark Bennett
Head of Global Fixed Connectivity Products, Vodafone

New network technologies SDN and NFV, expected to evolve into a $12.5-billion industry by 2020, accelerate innovation, enable organisations to be more agile and efficient, and provide them the opportunity to choose from a wider range of network and security services.

Software Defined Network (SDN) is automating and simplifying the configuration of networks to meet the application performance and user experience requirements of the enterprise. This enables networks to more be more agile, efficient and secure, which is especially critical to meet the real time demands of cloud services, digitisation and mobility.

Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) is a complementary technology that is taking those functions that today require their own vendor-proprietary dedicated hardware, such as firewalls and routers, and making them available through software from the network.

Greater agility for the Enterprise

SDN and NFV offer greater agility for the Enterprise, because the organisation will have a network that’s far more responsive and can be changed within a matter of minutes through self-serve portals and APIs. SDN enables wide area networks to be provisioned a lot faster, thus the Enterprise is able to roll out new services quicker and better respond to market conditions. In the past, configuring a network involved manually updating routers in different locations and multiple site visits to provide additional capacity, network functions and security services. SDN automates the supply chain and facilitates a consumption based, on-demand network experience that’s more responsive to different applications and user types.

When used together, SDN and NFV enable greater efficiencies for the Enterprise, due to reduced hardware deployments as they move to virtualisation, and the consumption-based network where they only pay for the capacity and services when they need them. They also accelerate innovation as the Enterprise is able to choose from a wider range of network and security services and vendors than is possible today through the traditional fixed network world.

SDN/NFV can evolve into a $12.5-billion industry by 2020

Analysts, such as IDC and IDATE, predict the take-up of SDN and NFV will be gradual over the coming years, with IDC suggesting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 53.9% from 2014 to 2020 to create an industry worth nearly $12.5 billion in 2020. IDATE is even more aggressive on SDN adoption, suggesting that ‘while a modest part of the global SDN and NFV market will be captured by telcos in 2020, large-scale deployments are expected to begin in 2016, and their CAGR over the next five years is projected to stand at 47%. Furthermore, it believes the market will be worth almost 19 billion EUR by 2020.

This movement will initially be slow, mainly because it depends on the vertical industry. Some organisations are going to want to adopt more quickly than others, so you might find CTOs and CIOs are more risk-averse in utilities, while they are quicker to embrace change in retail.

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One device to connect all

Some customers are very early in contract cycles and in fixed WAN terms these cycles can often be three to five years, so they'll be sweating their existing assets. That said, it is important that organisations make use of consultations, network audits and application discovery, to prepare and plan transition paths to software defined networks.

More importantly, there needs to be a drive within the organisation to change and that review may well be three years into a five-year contract. This will typically be driven by opportunities to reduce costs, the roll out of new IAAS or SAAS public cloud services such as Office 365, work force mobility or a desire to innovate and digitise processes and customer experiences.

The next 18 months will be a transformative period for SDN as we start to see adoption of virtual Customer Premise Equipment (CPE) services. Today, customer sites have physical devices for different functions, for example routers, switches and firewalls. In the future, there’ll be one device that connects to the wide area network and all functions will be accessed from through software from within the network, or locally using compute resource within the virtual CPE or at the customer site.

Wider range of functions with less power consumption

For the customer, this means a reduced hardware deployment that is less power-consuming and more environmentally friendly, while providing access to a wider range of functions.

We’ll also see greater adoption of software-defined WANs, which connect enterprise branches and the cloud. These application driven, on-demand networks dynamically steer connectivity over the top (OTT) of hybrid fixed, internet and mobile networks. This provides more affordable higher capacity, whilst meeting Enterprise objectives for the user application experience.

In three years, software-defined WAN will not just be delivered OTT, they will interact with the underlay transport or physical networks. This means you're not just controlling from the edges of the network, but you're controlling the underlying network infrastructure, so you can better resource the network in terms of capacity and workload. The solution provides the ability to control the software-defined network end-to-end. This must be supported by a significant network that offers a more assured experience than OTT services.

Vodafone Ready Network benefits

Vodafone Ready Network delivers an open and interconnected, software-defined network, connecting the enterprise and the cloud with in-built security and end-to-end SLAs including the underlying fixed and mobile networks. Over the last three years, Vodafone extended its fixed network capability, now reaching 73 countries, including 28 PAN Africa markets directly. Vodafone has recently launched 100Gbps high speed, low latency, Ethernet network services delivered in 26 countries. Transitioning to Vodafone’s Ready Network enables the below three main benefits for the Enterprise:

1. Confidently connected
With the exponential growth of new devices and communities on the network, increasing cloud adoption and cyber-attacks, Enterprise networks need to be secure at all points and all layers. It’s also essential to have visibility of what is happening on the network and to have access to services which pre-empt attacks and issues. Security needs to be embedded across all points and a range of cloud delivered and cloud optimised security solutions planned. Inbuilt analytics also enable intelligence to inform of anomalous network events, allowing proactive action to be taken to ensure an ongoing secure performance.

2. Accelerating innovation
The network acting as a hub provides the enterprise access to several new functions and services, and the Enterprise can also test and upload its own services and applications. Instead of a high volume of dedicated hardware devices set at the customer site, the organisation can choose from a global catalogue of multi-vendor functions all activated in minutes, in self-serve mode. It allows them to roll out their own applications onto the network. What’s more, through incubation zones, developers can test and co-create services using API on the Ready Network platform.

3. Agility and speed
Organisations can enjoy the benefits of faster provisioning and self-control of the network, and a consistent service experience with local flexibility, since IT teams can control all aspects of their network from firewall policy and bandwidth usage, to user access rights and profiles.

Connecting locations, people and devices

SDN is maturing as the standards are ratified, rolled out and being adopted. As a technology, the end status for all providers should be to offer a truly open, multi-vendor, interoperable network but that has some way to go. In 2016, Vodafone open-sourced its Common Service Model APIs through the TM Forum and these are now being adopted by the wider ICT industry. These standards will help ensure wide interoperability and connectivity

For customers who are digitising their processes, their channels to market and discovering how their workforce can be more productive, SDN can be the solution that is the most adaptive and that can evolve with their organisation to deliver the optimum service. It enables connectivity across the enterprise, connecting their locations, their people and their devices, but also connecting them to cloud services, to virtual functions and services on their network.

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