From increased agility and faster time to market to cost savings and additional revenue, the promise of virtualization is huge. This is especially true of software-defined access networking (SDAN). In fixed access networks, SDN is ready to move from trials and small-scale deployments to become part of operators’ long-term plans. The technology is now touted as the transformation tool operators have been waiting for, providing the network with the flexibility, velocity and scale they need to keep up with user demand for bandwidth and speeds.
But is this true or is it just industry hype?
SDAN: The Concept
It’s no secret consumers' broadband expectations are rising. Expanding video traffic, the Internet of Things (IoT) and over-the-top (OTT) services have exponentially increased the data flowing through today’s broadband networks. This growth is matched by users’ ever-increasing demand for speed, with "buffer face" often becoming scarier for operators than the most terrifying Halloween masks.
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To keep up with demands, operators must find new ways to overcome challenges such as:
Declining revenue per bits, requiring operators to look at new operational models that help reduce opex
Increasing network coverage required to meet government connectivity targets and ensure even the hardest-to-reach areas have reliable Internet.
These and other factors led operators to consider using SDAN as a solution to create the flexibility, scale and speed they need to effectively address network challenges and ultimately deliver affordable ultra-broadband services to customers.
SDAN fundamentally changes how access networks are built and operated by virtualizing functions typically attached to hardware and moving them into the cloud. This can help improve speed of service, simplify management processes, create more agile network environments and remove network complexities which collectively can reduce opex by as much as 26%, according to Bell Labs.
Harnessing SDAN effectively
Operators looking for a deliberate and pragmatic approach to SDAN may feel daunted by the idea of having to apply SDN/NFV to every aspect of their network. However, if operators can instead focus on concrete use cases that can deliver increased value through virtualization, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Virtualizing management and control functions, for example, can drastically reduce costs and complexity in the network while increasing scale. Other areas which can be particularly beneficial include:
Copper: Network densification with Gfast and reverse powering imposes new challenges for operators. SDAN addresses these challenges by providing cloud capabilities that enable zero touch provisioning and managing offline nodes, allowing operators to increase the speed of deployments.
Fiber: In next-generation PON networks, wavelength management, scalable data center practices, network slicing and 5G fronthaul can leverage SDN/NFV technologies, increasing the network performance and providing agility in capacity planning while permitting high availability scenarios.
Hybrid Fiber Coax: Quadrature Amplification Modulation (QAM) signals and analog optics are moved out of the hub office and pushed deeper into the network. By extending IP all the way to the remote access node, the network and its operations are simplified. As a result, the hub office requires less rack space, resulting in significant cost savings and a significant increase in fiber performance.
Home and enterprise: Supporting residential and business services is costly, especially as service providers have a plethora of different gateway solutions. Virtualizing gateway functions significantly simplifies operations and eases the introduction of new services without the need to manually interfere.
By cutting through the hype and focusing on the use cases that bring the most benefit, SDAN becomes a powerful tool for operators to create faster, better and smarter networks.
To hear more on this, join industry experts during the Broadband World Forum session where they will discuss SDAN and how operators are using it in their networks today.
— Filip De Greve, Product Marketing Manager, Nokia