By Azz-Eddine Mansouri, General Manager at Ciena Middle East
In an age of cloud networking, static connectivity just isn’t enough anymore. Increasingly, there is a need for networks that give us the bandwidth we need, when we need it. Enter Bandwidth on Demand (BOD), a network connectivity service that allows users to request bandwidth at desired levels when and where they need it.
Today, connectivity is the lifeblood of a digital economy. Against this backdrop, global telecom infrastructure needs to keep up with growing demand volumes and the ever-evolving ways that we use it. For example, the UAE is rapidly developing its infrastructure to stimulate a knowledge-based economy as part of its Vision 2021 strategy. A critical component of this strategy is developing robust infrastructure that supports the nation’s digital ambitions.
To ensure a seamless digital economy, enterprises, content providers, data centre operators, mobile operators, and retail network service providers all need to have the appropriate capacity between designated locations at the right time, so that they can consume network resources with ease and cost-effectiveness.
For example, large events like music concerts, sporting events or consumer and trade exhibitions have fluctuating bandwidth demands. While it is easy to predict the need for massive connectivity in such instances, traffic patterns are becoming increasingly more unpredictable across networks, and if traffic spikes exceed available bandwidth, applications could falter or fail. Anticipating workload peaks accurately is becoming a near impossible challenge, given an increase in the use of multiple cloud providers and over-the-top services (particularly video) and increased mobility of end users.
Challenges with manual processes for connectivity
Experimenting with manual connectivity also poses challenges. To order a connectivity service today, requests must be entered into an order management system which initiates a manual workflow; this fulfilment process can take weeks to complete.
Often, the requirement for guaranteed bandwidth forces customers to over-order. They either purchase fixed capacity services for the peak demand forecasted between their locations, or inefficiently route some traffic through intermediate sites to minimize the number of transport services. They also make purchase decisions largely based on price, commoditising connectivity services.
Making a new service available, or adjusting the bandwidth on an existing service, involves manual handoffs between departments and monotonous, potentially error-prone lifecycle operations. Network engineers must therefore manually design the path using offline inventory systems or spreadsheets. Plus, provisioning requires administrators to manually enter data into multiple Network Management Systems (NMSs) or domain controllers to configure network elements within respective domains.
These operational silos and manual processes can result in delayed revenue and higher operational costs. To reduce costs, the product catalogue is often limited to fixed duration contract offerings, limiting the addressable market and constraining revenue opportunities. A service provider therefore faces either lower margins or non-competitive prices which hampers competitiveness.
Automate using Bandwidth on Demand
Help is at hand though; BoD solutions are now available for automating end-to-end path computation and provisioning connections across multi-vendor, multi-domain infrastructure. Using an order management system (OMS) self-service portal, a customer can select the desired connectivity product, bandwidth, activation and termination day and time, the A and Z locations, and quality of service (QoS) parameters.
By using a BoD solution, customers can consume connectivity resources as quickly and simply as cloud-based XaaS offerings. Service providers can also intelligently automate operations and end-to-end service fulfilment across multi-vendor domains, increasing service agility and delivering services in minutes, instead of weeks or months. This enables them to offer new competitive services, attract new customers and enterprises that could not afford fixed bandwidth prices, increase monetisation of their current assets and gain increased revenue streams. At the same time, unified control and management of the network helps ensure error-free service activation, eliminating unnecessary overhead and costs associated with mistakes, while increasing end-customer satisfaction.
Eventually, service providers need a comprehensive, open software suite to optimize business processes spanning IT and Network functions. This will ensure the acceleration of digital transformation and IT and network operations are no longer constrained in legacy, manually intensive silos.