SDN changes shape, capacity and security – if and when
Vodafone has completed an advanced software upgrade across its entire global transport network of hundreds of millions of users and content providers in 28 countries across four continents. It allows wholesale and enterprise customers to add capacity faster and cheaper, by increments, and lets them add new services and tighten security in one go across the entire global network.
As part of its digital evolution, Vodafone directly applied Software Defined Networking (SDN) to the multi-vendor parts of the global network. This means it can orchestrate all its mobile and fixed data and voice traffic, said Vodafone. Engineers applied the software to both the Optical Network, which converts data into light for transmission at very high speeds and the Internet Protocol (IP) Network that securely allows computers and devices to connect to the Internet. (See full technical description below)
The new technology helps create a fully automated and programmable network that behaves more like a super-computer. Changes to 620 multi-vendor network systems can be achieved using software-driven commands, virtually stored in Vodafone’s secure private cloud.
Data traffic on Vodafone’s fixed and mobile networks grows by 15% a year and the network is shaping up to meet this challenge, while adopting advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence to help it anticipate and adapt organically. Its global transport network, the engine of the company’s network operations, comprises optical fibre cables capable of carrying and directing up to 250 terabytes of data traffic at any one time. It provides the vital links connecting consumers, businesses and strategic partners via tens of thousands of mobile base stations across Europe and Africa and more than 270 third party and Vodafone-owned data centres.
“This software upgrade gives us a single view on the section of the transport network connecting people and machines globally,” said Vodafone chief CTO Johan Wibergh, “it provides faster and more secure connectivity across Europe and to other regions. We can continually and automatically adapt to dynamic peaks in traffic worldwide, whether they are due to people returning to the office or live streaming major sports events.”
Serving global customers from a single source and a universal contract, that unifies the patchwork of separate in-country operators’ networks, makes a huge difference. Common transport network APIs can also be made available to Vodafone’s global customers and strategic partners so they can improve the quality and the performance of their own streaming, internet, and data services for end users.
How they did it
Vodafone network engineers activated an SDN stack on both the Internet Protocol (IP) and Optical Global Internet network by deploying the IP and Optical area controllers and the Hierarchical Controller. This enables end-to-end multilayer automation and programmability, removing the complexity for third party services interacting with the network.
The deployed solution is based on a multi-vendor and multi-layer hierarchical architecture delivered through the implementation of Juniper Networks Paragon Pathfinder IP and MPLS SDN Controller, Ciena Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) Optical SDN Controller and Cisco Crosswork Hierarchical Controller (formerly Sedona Netfusion). Communication between these different vendor components is facilitated through open and standard industry protocols and APIs, creating a single, end-to-end SDN management layer.
The virtual SDN applications are deployed within Vodafone’s private cloud and are accessible via its geographically dispersed data centre infrastructure. This ensures high availability of digital connectivity with enhanced ‘geo-redundancy’ capability.