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GRAVITY BLOG

The Road to Autonomous Networks: Taking a New Path

 5 Jul 2017 /  Joe Marsella, Vice President, Global Sales Engineering, Ciena

In the second of a 3-part series on the Road to Autonomous Networks, Ciena’s Joe Marsella details the journey of Our Hero as he struggles to make the dream of an intelligent, self-optimizing network a reality.

To overcome the shackles of network complexity, and avoid being 'locked-in,' our hero has opted to take a new path forward—one that focuses on the optimization of the service life cycle. This route can help him to drive the business forward, improve customer satisfaction, and boost bottom line results.

He now believes that optimizing the service lifecycle is the way to break free from legacy network complexities and gain some much needed agility and scalability. And he sees this is his only hope to keep pace with relatively younger competitors who are sprinting ahead, working hard to chip away at his customer base. But he faces a steep learning curve ahead—how best should he start?

With persistence and dedication, our hero makes progress, as he chooses to start with network automation and adopt a data-driven WAN automation architecture, which is relatively easy to adapt. And he also learns to leverage DevOps processes and techniques to help him drastically increase agility, while simultaneously increasing his ability to execute on the adaptations.

Bringing together teams of personnel from various product, networking, engineering and IT disciplines, he helps them collaborate, building new WAN services through the use of service templates and bringing in new domains by creating 'adapters' to abstract away from underlying complexities.   By leveraging DevOps tools and techniques, this newly established team of superheroes finds a way to introduce and bring together different sets of underlying controllers, management systems and even network elements ranging from IP/MPLS to Ethernet to optical, melding together previously independent worlds.

As part of the effort to simplify network operations, our hero also learns to fully embrace virtualization. He recognizes in his B2B market arena that enterprise connectivity has become intensely competitive and essentially commoditized, while the ability to offer valued-added services not only increases market opportunities, but also provides further differentiation for his firm.

At the same time, however, he understands that managing physical platforms and networks across every enterprise branch location will make his service simplification goal unachievable.   Our hero quickly determines that virtualization is the answer, enabling him to break through previously cost-prohibitive operational barriers to offer a wide range of virtualized business appliances that add a new level of value on top of the business’s basic connectivity offerings.

From his new vantage point, it’s now possible to see further ahead. Turns out he was right! There are new and emerging market opportunities ahead. And he fully understands how utilizing automation and virtualization will efficiently help him enable a range of new services. But while he now has automated the WAN and added the ability to offer virtualized functions, he still has more work ahead on his network automation journey.

As he gains momentum, our hero sees that he now needs to focus on the true end-to-end service regardless of whether it is traversing a physical or virtual infrastructure. He now understands that to ‘abstract’ away network technologies and provide true end-to-end service lifecycle provisioning with performance-driven SLAs, he must look beyond simply WAN automation and virtualization, and focus most on each customer service — this customer oriented perspective now leads him down a path toward Multi-Domain Service Orchestration (MDSO).

Our hero now realizes that the move into multi-domain service orchestration is simply an extension of the WAN automation he has already implemented. In fact, to add new virtual, mobile or data center domains to his automation platform becomes as simple as creating new 'adapters' to interface to these new domains and new templates, which can even utilize previously built WAN templates in a hierarchical manner. By building upon his existing architecture, he can now further abstract away the details of the network and apply a true end-to-end service-oriented view, northbound to end users and network administrators.  

Through all of their efforts, the team of superheroes is now driving a new services-oriented or Service Level Agreement (SLA) centered view of the network, to replace their prior technology-driven view. On this journey from technology-driven to services-based operations, our hero has also learned that simplifying the service lifecycle can help him to dramatically speed the process involved in service turn ups and/or turndowns, effectively creating an on-demand service capability that gives his business a unique market advantage. His service simplification ideology also helps bring a new end-to-end service-centric view of the network, which in turn improves service assurance and overall customer satisfaction.

By choosing the path toward MDSO, our hero now has freed himself from lock-in and created a true end-to-end service automation platform, which has also streamlined business operations. But automated does not necessarily equal autonomous. What else can be done to bring an element of intelligence to the network?

Find out in our final chapter.

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