Shazia Hasnie is Senior Director for Network Architecture and Strategy at MegaPath in San Jose, California. She has spoken on the topics of SDN and NFV at various industry events. Shazia has more than 14 years of post-doctoral experience and broad-based expertise in engineering research and innovation, technology and business strategy and management. She holds a Ph.D. in Telecommunications Engineering from the Australian National University.
Can you provide a quick background on MegaPath and what types of problems you solve for customers?
Hasnie: MegaPath is one of the largest facilities-based providers of managed services in the United States, providing voice, data, managed IT, and security services to enterprise and SMB customers. The MegaPath network is a nationwide, MPLS-enabled, optical IP network that provides high quality-of-service (QoS) to customers. The MegaPath MPLS network is secure at the core and reaches 235 metropolitan areas in the U.S. with a reach to 11 million businesses.
MegaPath has earned a strong reputation in key industries — including finance, healthcare, restaurants, and retail — for its customized solutions. We offer tailored services that address the connectivity, networking, VoIP and security needs of our customers and reduce the cost and complexity of securely connecting their locations and people by managing every aspect of the process.
MegaPath also provides cloud-based solutions — including cloud hosting, hosted data backup, hosted Exchange, hosted SharePoint, and hosted voice — that are on-net to our OC-192 backbone and run in SAS 70 and SSAE 16 compliant data centers that are fully redundant and secure.
Hasnie: SDN can introduce a paradigm shift in how networks are architected, operationalized and monetized today. Service providers face formidable challenges when it comes to controlling network capex and opex. Increase in revenue is largely decoupled from the investments needed to be made to scale and innovate the networks. The revenue generating services may take weeks or months to be created, provisioned and activated on the network.
SDN has the potential to adjust this paradox by introducing operational simplification, service agility, business intelligence and a single orchestrated touch point for all services. At the center of all this would be an opportunity for service providers to better monetize their networks.
Will NFV and SDN allow a provider like MegaPath to compete more aggressively against the larger players? Are NFV and SDN core to MegaPath’s future vision?
Hasnie: SDN has a promise of better monetization of networks. It would bring those benefits across the board to any service provider who would time their offering right and try to stay ahead of the competition.
MegaPath is committed to providing the best-in-class services to our customers. We are investing time and resources to make sure that we continue to do so and embrace any transformative changes that need to take place to remain competitive.
We’ve heard that maybe SDN and NFV won’t change capex — do you agree?
Hasnie: I think the biggest advantage of SDN and NFV technologies would come from the fact that creation of new revenue streams would be streamlined. There would be operational simplification and hence operational saving by not having to deal with a plethora of disparate NMS, EMS and OSS/BSS systems. In my view, there would be a long term capex benefit as well stemming from the fact that expensive purpose-built ASICs and NPUs would eventually be replaced by high-speed, general-purpose multicore CPUs.
What are key SDN and NFV-enabled applications and services that you are experimenting with or deploying, if any? Can you share any information about what you’ve learned so far?
Hasnie: Currently, we are in a very initial and exploratory phase; taking the pulse of the industry and doing in-house diligence of what would and what would not make sense for us.
However, I think, the service delivery automation is more urgent for most network operators. They need service deliver automation and orchestration to enable dynamic, on-demand services today. They need an integrated end-to-end view and control of the network. This would happen by having a single orchestrated touch point for the network by integrating OSS/BSS and NMS systems. This solution needs to be future proof to support a smooth migration to software defined networks of tomorrow which would then integrate the network control layer with this service orchestration layer.
In addition, there are classic use cases of bandwidth and CoS/performance on demand. There are other use cases which are getting a lot of traction in service provider community for example virtual edge/CPE. Service chaining and network slicing are also of particular interest to many service providers.
What do you envision as the biggest challenges to deploying NFV and SDN?
Hasnie: If we talk about SDN in its true essence, i.e., complete abstraction of control and forwarding layers, with the control layer logically centralized and programmable and open, standardized northbound and southbound APIs, then a number of challenges lie ahead before this dream is realized.
The largest gap in SDN technology is in the area of service control software. Without solving this problem, it is unlikely that SDN concept may really materialize. The routing and network management protocols can help gather some network information, but applications need to interact a lot more intimately with the routing system to realize the SDN dream. The IETF I2RS [Interface to the Routing System] protocol is an effort in this direction for a hybrid, distributed SDN architecture.
The next challenge is in regards to management of control traffic in a centralized network. ALTO [Application-Layer Traffic Optimization] and PCE servers would need route information across IGP domains and autonomous systems to effectively optimize and route application traffic. IETF is making strides in this direction by introducing a new encoding format for BGP with LS NLRI [Link-State Network Layer Reachability Information], applicable to physical and virtual links.
Initially, service providers would most likely to deploy SDN in isolated areas of their network. The question is how these SDN domains would interface with the rest of the legacy network. Furthermore, multiple SDN domains would need to interface with each other as well. The IETF has proposed an SDN interface (SDNi) protocol to address the latter question.
The OpenFlow framework, the de facto SDN standard, has not fully matured yet. There is much work needed to be done on OF-Config, and then to make it all work for optical transport as well. The ONF is making progress on these fronts.
Lastly, the issue of the northbound API is important as well. If we want to avoid all kinds of vendor lock-in in the new software-defined networking paradigm, then we need an open and standardized northbound API to interface with SDN controllers. If we do not have an open API, then application portability from one vendor to next would not happen. If we do not have a standardized API, then every vendor would have their own open northbound API, which would again be counterproductive. After much ado, ONF has finally launched its Northbound Interface Working Group recently to evaluate whether standards are necessary.
When do you think you’ll start rolling out services based on SDN and NFV?
Hasnie: This has yet to be determined. We are very interested in the SDN promise and how it will help us better monetize our network. We would have a better idea after we have finished our techno-economic assessment and impact analysis.
Thank you very much for your time, Shazia!
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