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Javier Benitez – Colt

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Colt believes SDN is the right technology to accomplish data centre network virtualisation, bringing true service automation, dynamic service flexing and VM mobility.

In advance of SDN World in Barcelona on 11-13 June 2013, SDN World caught up with Javier Benitez, Senior Network Architect, Network Strategy & Architecture at Colt to find out about their vision for the new Software-Defined Networking age.

Javier, do you think SDN is an eventual inevitability for most operators?

“It is a fact that something needs to be changed in the way we design and operate networks; otherwise the carrier and service provider business models are seriously at risk. SDN represents a fresh approach to networking trying to solve some of the major pain points we face today in the industry, like the need to carefully manage operational expenses, to reduce long development cycles, increase of automation, etc.

“SDN may mean different things to different people, but we should not lose time in debating what SDN exactly means, as this is just the start of the journey. In my view, the value of SDN so far has been the recognition in the industry that things need to change in networking and that the model to follow is likely to be the cloud & virtualisation computing one.”

Why is Carrier-Class SDN so vital?

“Service providers will never deploy a new technology across all geographies and environments if it has not been thoroughly tested and proven in the field. No matter how much hype there is around SDN at the moment, if available products are not what we consider to be carrier-class they will never get beyond the lab. And we all know that when a technology is in his early days, it will take time to reach that level of maturity.

“We in Colt have already experienced this in our Cloud Centric Network project, our first SDN focused project to define Colt’s next generation DC architecture. This is where having well-crafted use cases and prototyping make sense in order to validate and then bootstrap deployments.”

What needs to happen for SDN and NFV to become a reality for telcos?

“SDN and NFV are much more than a single technology or feature; it is the recognition that things need to change. As such, we are just at the beginning of a long term transformation, and every service provider will have to define its own pace as real and proven products become available.

“At the moment, most of the efforts are focused on standardisation and requirements definition, and very few real products are really available in the market place. Some areas are more advanced, like the data centre, but others, like the WAN, are more incipient, even though we are starting to see some field trials. And finally, what’s more important than technology readiness is people and operating-model readiness; if you don’t embrace this change, technology won’t solve it on your behalf.”

What do you think will be the best use-case scenarios for SDN and NFV?

“The number one use case for Colt, and I assume for many other service providers, is going to be automation, across multi-vendor and multi-layer environments. The way we have managed networks for the last decades have not significantly changed, and we still are used to a mostly manual-driven process, typically following segregated vendor/technology silos. Another use case we are interested and that is somewhat related is the network virtualisation, not only in the DC but also in the WAN, with the objective of evolving towards flexible network as a service model.”

What are Colt’s current SDN & NFV plans?

“We started the Network Functions Virtualisation journey back in 2011 when we initiated a project to virtualise the L3 managed CPE (the router we install in customer premises to deliver managed Internet Access and IP VPN services). The initial phase of this project has launched for basic Internet Access in September 2012, and we are currently working to extend the concept to the complete L3 service portfolio.

“Expanding on NFV, our next priority is around virtualising our DC appliances (Firewall, Load Balancer, etc) as well as some existing network control plane functions (e.g. BGP Route Reflector).

“In terms of SDN, Colt is currently in final evaluation phase and pilot for our next generation DC architecture that will incorporate an SDN based DC network virtualisation. And the next step we want to take is to bring the same SDN network virtualisation concept to the WAN (Optical & Packet). Stay tuned!”

Javier Benitez will be speaking in-depth about Colt’s SDN and NFV plans at the forthcoming SDN World Conference in Barcelona on 11-13 June 2013, a uniquely operator-rich event featuring visionary contributions on the potential of SDN and NFV from 30+ operators around the globe.