CenturyLink today proclaimed a goal to have full global virtualization coverage in its IP core network and data centers by 2018. The company already will have reached 40 percent of that goal by the end of 2015.
To date, it has built its network functions virtualization (NFV) platform in 36 network and data center locations with plans to expand into a total of 44 locations by the end of the year. This is all part of its creation of a Programmable Services Backbone (PSB), which the company announced in March.
The company’s end game is for business customers to be able to buy all their services and provision them on-demand.
To make its virtualization goal happen, the service provider is working with many vendors. It’s using Ciena’s BluePlanet SDN controller for orchestration, which it also announced in March.
Although BluePlanet’s controller is not open source, James Feger, VP of network strategy and development for CenturyLink, makes the case that it’s not strictly proprietary, either. “Third parties can develop against it,” he says. “We have practically every vendor who’s made a piece of network equipment in our network. That’s why we selected it, because of its integration.”
The carrier named five other vendors working with it on PSB:
- Ericsson — for OSS and BSS
- Arista Networks — for top-of-rack switching
- Nuage Networks — for functions of the software defined networking (SDN) piece
- Red Hat — for the software systems stack
- Supermicro — for server infrastructure.
“We actually believe there won’t be a single controller,” says Feger. “OpenDaylight [ODL] is great. We believe ODL will have a place in our network.”
Feger says Nuage was a good choice because much of CenturyLink’s network is derived from Alcatel-Lucent and “it’s a pretty strong platform and based on an ecosystem we’re familiar with.”
In the coming months, CenturyLink will begin deploying a range of virtualized data and voice infrastructure services, including virtualized multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) routers and customer premises equipment (CPE) for business customers.
Although CenturyLink isn’t saying how many employees are working on PSB, Feger says it’s a “corporate-wide effort.” The majority of PSB work is being conducted at the company’s offices in Littleton, Colorado, but the work is pulling in many more people company-wide in order to achieve its 2018 goal.
Some of this sounds similar to recent announcements from AT&T, which has vowed to virtualize 75 percent of its (admittedly much larger) network by 2020, and is making a big push to deliver business services on-demand.