3 Ways CenturyLink is Using Virtualization to be More Services-Centric

Posted by Mae Kowalke on Friday, December 11, 2015 with No comments

CenturyLink has its sights set on a software-defined world, saying it will have 40% of its global IP network virtualized this year, part of a larger goal to create a completely virtualized IP network by 2018. 

Light Reading Editor-at-Large Carol Wilson recently interviewed James Feger, CenturyLink's VP of network strategy and development, and shared what she learned in an article that basically boils down to three points about how the global communications service provider is adopting virtualization and what it plans to do with the technology. 

1. Virtualize the Core Network

This means rolling out what Feger referred to as 'virtualization pods' (aka nodes; deployed into terapops, network core and edge locations, and hosting and cloud data centers,) on its programmable services backbone (PSB: the NFV and SDN infrastructure for the network), moving routing functions into this space. 

"Instead of having a physical port router sitting there, we are taking it straight off the transport network and essentially stitching it over into a virtual router," Feger explained in the article.
CenturyLink is able to do this relatively easily because their core network is architected to be a 'dumb switch;' it just switches packets and labels, and is a route-free zone. 

2. Create a Virtual Edge

CenturyLink views its edge network as having two components: the edge itself, and the aggregation of edge points into the core. Virtualizing the edge is integral.

For example, instead of using a physical MPLS premises router, they'll serve routing functions from a virtualized element at the edge (if necessary), then 'backhaul' that traffic to physical core elements at the points of aggregation to the coreeffectively virtualizing edge services at the customer premises.

The advantage of this approach is being able to offer software-defined WANs and the type of security and analytics services that are increasingly in demand, while leaving the core transport automation open to orchestration with edge policies as their core SDN strategies are finalized and widely deployed.

3. Roll out Services on Demand

There's a lot of talk about providers being able to turn services up and down on demandusually referred to 'bandwidth on demand.' For CenturyLink, the emphasis here is firmly on the services aspect. 

Their goal is to give customers the ability to change bandwidth or services through a self-serve portal. Not available yet, but in the works, and imminent for early 2016.


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