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Empowering Service Providers to Engineer Cloud Intelligent Networks

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According to Gartner’s forecast on Public Cloud Services , end-user spending on public cloud services is expected to record a compound annual growth rate of 17.7% from 2011 through 2016.

This creates a tremendous opportunity for broadband carriers to expand and enhance their broadband networks to better support and offer cloud services, and in fact, many ISPs around the world have already started offering cloud services to their customers, including residential and enterprises.  

However, revenue decline, decreasing profitability and the explosive traffic growth on the existing networks hamper service providers as they strive to innovate and differentiate themselves from competitors. Service providers want to offer cutting-edge and personalized cloud solutions to their customers while they also look to improve operational efficiency, accelerate network deployment and lower total cost of ownership. The challenge of migrating existing network architectures, managements and policy frameworks is impacting providers around the world as they work feverishly to ramp up to this new area of opportunity and demand.

Cloud services are generally understood as being combinations of communications, storage and computing services that enable convenient, on-demand access to a shared pool of configurable, rapidly provisioned resources. These cloud computing environments require networks that can cope with high levels of traffic, as well as frequently changing types and patterns of traffic.  Many of the concepts inherent in cloud services are not new but are becoming more economically feasible and IT attractive with advances in technologies and market developments.

In considering cloud services provided in the context of multiservice broadband networks, there are a number of approaches that could be considered. These alternatives are illustrated in the following figures, indicating potential new cloud service related functions.

 
Figure 1 Cloud services infrastructure provided by a data center attached to the multiservice broadband network

 
Figure 2 Integration of Cloud Service Infrastructure into the Multiservice Broadband Network

 
 Figure 3 Cloud Services infrastructure provided by Customer Premises Equipment serviced by the Multiservice Broadband Network

With the creation of the Broadband Forum’s Cloud Intelligent Broadband Network (CIBN) project, service providers are being given the tools to take advantage of these market developments – helping them migrate to a cloud supporting network, reduce costs and enhancing revenue opportunities. The goal of this project is to provide the industry with the specifications needed to capitalize on the cloud service opportunity, ensuring the delivery of new services without cannibalizing older ones.

This two-phased Cloud Project is focused on transitioning the multiservice broadband network to address the cloud requirements, incorporating a holistic approach that addresses not only the architecture, but management, policy control and the Quality of Experience (QoE) of cloud service offerings, while leveraging technologies such as SDN and virtualisation. Progress in SDN and virtualization is coming fast and furious as customers increasingly push operators to find methods to provide more bandwidth or deploy applications. The world is becoming increasingly software-centric and virtualized, and getting the most efficiency and value out of data centers, along with their seamless connectivity and interoperability with evolving network operator infrastructures, is Broadband Forum’s top work in progress.

By following the CIBN framework, service providers can transform their current architecture to:

•    Deliver an optimized application experience to maximize user experience, resource utilization and reliability
•    Enable secure solutions to protect business assets and end users accessing the cloud, ensure compliance and increase business innovation
•    Enable simplified operations to improve efficiency, accelerate network deployment and lower total cost of ownership
•    Extend the network and connect data centers to balance capacity, aggregate resources and integrate cloud services across data centers
•    Use the intelligence in the network to identify and efficiently consume the ‘best’ resources in the cloud
•    Automate traffic through the network and create dynamic pathways that ensure the fastest possible end-to-end connection
•    Execute requests across multiple locations to reduce workload size and accelerate processing times
•    Provide multi-tiered service level agreements to their customers and guarantee levels of performance

The first deliverable of the Broadband Forum’s Cloud Project is the Study Document 302 (SD-302) “Framework for Cloud Services in Broadband Networks”. This provides a structured approach aimed at supporting cloud services in multiservice broadband networks. While operators have previously offered various flavours of cloud services, the capabilities and services from one carrier to another have been proprietary and unbalanced due to a lack of standards.

SD-302 defines cloud services use cases and identifies areas where network elements can be leveraged to support cloud. The architecture and transport connectivity capabilities addressed include service options such as L2VPN, L3VPN, data plane L2/L3 forwarding functionalities, QoS enforcement, monitoring, control plane, service plane, SLA and management plane aspects. The cloud service use cases have been analyzed to determine architectural implications and impact on network functionalities, including interfaces, service models, security, billing and operations.  

 
Figure 4 Broadband Forum multiservice architecture specifications

 

The current work is implementing the requirements of SD-302 to the existing broadband multiservice architecture specifications such as Technical Report 144 “Broadband Multiservice Architecture & Framework Requirements”, which will incorporate the SD-302 Cloud requirements for architecture extensions, new functionalities and impacts on relevant reference points, such as the user-to-cloud interface.

In defining the access model and subscriber model specific to cloud services supported by a multiservice broadband architecture, the Broadband Forum leveraged National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) based service subscription, authentication, SLA definitions and performance metrics.

As cloud services develop, enterprise and wholesale demands on the network are rising and service providers are under pressure to increase capacity, deliver more dynamic services and keep costs down. With service providers looking to deploy cloud services, the ability to simplify networks, scale them to meet demands, predict, plan and operate across the whole wide area network is of paramount importance. This is where the Broadband Forum technical work supports their efforts, enabling more flexible and programmable service capabilities for the future, to meet growing complexities.

By Robin Mersh, CEO of the Broadband Forum