When I’ve talked with communication service providers about software-defined networking (SDN), most seem well aware of its value to their business. But not everyone recognizes that a new approach to service assurance is crucial for gaining the full advantage of their dynamic new networks.
As operators move from trials to broad commercialization of new SDN services, they quickly realize that in addition to the base SDN capabilities marketed by most vendors today, they also need a way to keep their networks and services performing at their best — and their customers happy — in this new shifting, ever-changing network environment. The solution lies in combining network service assurance with SDN.
The first part is relatively straightforward — getting the insight you need by ensuring the assurance tools you use today can work over multi-vendor SDN environments. The second part is where the magic happens — using this data to drive automatic changes to the network whenever a dynamic response is needed. In other words, the key performance indicator (KPIs), analytics, and correlations you know and love are used to trigger assurance policies in carrier SDN controllers. These in turn make automatic changes to the network to ensure customer expectations are always met, and the network infrastructure keeps running at peak efficiency.
Here’s what you need to know as you consider service assurance for your carrier SDN projects:
Get Broad Network Visibility – In Near Real Time
Make sure to leverage telemetry to collect data across the multiple network domains supported by SDN, including IP, optical, virtual, and physical. This broad, real-time visibility into your entire network will allow you to quickly identify potential problems, before they impact services.
Ensure Actions Can Be Triggered Automatically
Adding service assurance to carrier SDN does more than give operators enhanced insight into whether new SDN services are operating at their best. It also allows assurance capabilities to become a more dynamic, automated part of the service fulfillment process. Make sure assurance data can be used to trigger automated changes to the network through SDN control, so you can reap the benefits of dynamic or “closed-loop” assurance.
At the services layer, automated actions can be launched to ensure that critical service level agreements (SLAs) are met. At the network layer, they can be targeted at making better use of network assets while providing better overall services levels for customers.
And finally, make sure that a broad set of automatic network actions are supported. Common actions in your dynamic assurance toolkit should include automatic redirection of traffic flows, the establishment of new IP/optical paths, or the dynamic resizing of existing IP/optical paths.
Determine the Pain Points You Want to Address
You can leverage integrated service assurance to address a variety of goals and issues. For example, one of our incumbent service provider customers wanted to deliver a premium, on-demand bandwidth service that would place bandwidth wherever it was needed to avoid service degradation. Link utilization KPIs were used to dynamically resize paths at the IP/optical layer to meet changing needs.
Another service provider recognized that integrated service assurance could provide highly intelligent and self-tuned load balancing, which would allow them to optimize links to public and private data centers. They now track congestion and latency through data center links and peering points — and dynamically redirect selected flows to avoid congestion and ensure high customer satisfaction.
How to Get Started with Automated Assurance?
Once you have identified the pain point you want to address, begin by studying assurance data to identify events that require operator intervention on a regular basis. You can then write policies to automate these changes, using assurance data as the trigger. Track the policies to ensure they were successful at providing the desired result.
Once you start building trust in these new automated assurance processes, I guarantee you will never look back. You’ll have fast, economical ways to maintain high performance and efficiency as you roll out new revenue-generating SDN services. In other words, automated service assurance will help you fulfill the technical and business potential of your new SDN networks.