Wide Area Networking is evolving fast. WAN users already combine fixed-line and wireless technologies with concepts like software defined networking.
This approach is better suited to cope with a world where workers, applications and workloads are in a constant state of flux.
Eventually we could reach a point where, just as cloud computing users don’t always need to know where their data is, network users won’t need to know how their data gets from A to B.
All they will care about is that it gets there on time and at a reasonable cost.
Explosion of options
IDC vice president Huge Ujhazy says a year ago he was talking about carrier supported multi-Lan and multi-cloud. He says; “There is an explosion of options along with the race to interconnect all the public cloud, private cloud, on-premise cloud and wrap all this into the overall enterprise network.
“This year we’re adding the concept of multi-platform, because we think the future is moving towards a platform play. This means an application will make a request for a connection, it will give the request some parameters. It will then do whatever job it was going to do before handing the connection back.
“This is in contrast to the conventional approach where a customer might have to get a fixed two-year contract for a link.”
Ditching the fixed links
With a platform play, telcos will offer connectivity services alongside compute, storage and applications on terms that are similar to cloud computing. Just as cloud customers don’t have to pay for on-premise servers, but spin up on-demand services instead, connectivity customers won’t need fixed links. They’ll be able to by the connections they need as they need them. And like the computing cloud, the network is always on.
Ujhazy says; “We have to assume the network is always going to be there and you have to know what particular connection we are going to use. You might make a request such as ‘I want connectivity to an end point in Hong Kong. I want one millisecond latency and I want the least cost route’”.
This is a way of abstracting communications to the point where the customer doesn’t need to know or care about what is going on. In effect they are asking for a connection, letting the network operator choose the technology and the route. All they do is pay for the delivered service. There is no need for a permanent relationship with the network.
Ujhazy likens this to loading an app on a phone. He says; “It goes out there, grabs some cloudy bits, some application bits and does its thing.”
We are not there yet. Ujhazy says there is still a way to go.
The message from the carriers is “if we present ourselves as a utility, where all I’m offering you is a pipe to shove data down, then I’m increasingly marginalised. So if I start offering you a connectivity platform which has a place to store all this data you are connecting, a place to consume it from any device from any location at any time and a place to share it, then I can become really relevant”.
Like AWS and Azure, but with networks
He calls this approach “moving more and more behind the curtain. Think about what AWS and Azure have done for us. There was a time when we had to work for a living and build these environments. Now it’s a matter of matching this much virtual machine with this much storage and this much capacity and here is the credit card.”
Ujhazy says he is impressed at what Singtel is doing in terms of unifying all these parts. He says; “They’ve built an interface on top of all the cloud providers and all this connectivity. It’s called the Liquid Infrastructure. Customers can come in through the Liquid Portal and they can choose this and that and it comes down to a single Singtel bill. That’s the sort of complexity which we can push behind the curtain and make it the responsibility of the carrier. It’s quite appealing to customers who don’t want to deal with all that.”
Communications technologies are converging elsewhere. Ujhazy says in some markets Vodafone offers IoT Plus. This brings together traditional IoT connectivity with LTE and 5G along with edge computing. This is all wrapped together with managed services. In effect Vodafone is telling customers it will take care of everything. It’s a compelling proposition.
This story was originally published in The Download magazine as WAN platform play moves complexity behind the curtain .