NTT to extend software-based cloud service to 17 data centers by end of 2015

DALLAS--NTT Communications has set an ambitious path for its software-defined networking (SDN)-based cloud services portfolio with plans to make it available in 17 of its global data centers by the end of this year.

Speaking during the Tuesday morning keynote session at the TIA Network of the Future conference, Joe Corvaia, VP of sales engineering for NTT America, said that this platform allows users to dynamically deploy virtualized networks.

"Our cloud platform is a globally consistent VMware cloud-powered architecture with some customization and enhancements that's available in 14 data centers today with 17 by the end of 2015," Corvaia said. "With the implementation of SDN, it does allow customers to dynamically deploy virtual networks in the global Layer 2 and Layer 3 platform and allows us to use application gateways into other assets."

Building off its cloud platform, NTT now allows business users to access cloud services from other players such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Azure.

However, since NTT is an incumbent provider, it still has to operate a hybrid network that supports both new software-driven and legacy physical network infrastructure.

"This is very much a hybrid architecture today, not so much as what's coming in the future, but certainly the coexistence of virtual assets, physical assets and some bare network components do exist today," Corvaia said. "We also have an asset-lite option, which was recently announced that allows us to bring some of the network functions virtualization functions components closer to the data center from the network edge."

Another key feature that NTT is planning to release is a programmatic control or an API for developers to not only control the consumption of compute, but also compute network and storage.

NTT is no stranger to SDN and NFV. In 2012, NTT launched a commercial offering of SDN with an overlay architecture for its enterprise cloud service network in conjunction with vendor partner NEC.

Unlike other early implementations of SDN that focused on internal operations, NTT wanted to see how it could enable new service functions for its business customer base.

"This was a southbound network-centric approach that overlaid our cloud offering," Corvaia said. "This was a joint collaboration with NEC on open flow controller with some modifications to the code base that allowed us to bring what we thought was a value-added service to the market that was not just a network efficiency play that other folks were doing at the time."

But NTT's NFV and SDN plans were further cemented when it purchased Virtela Networks, an early adopter of cloud services, in 2013.

Since that time, the service provider has integrated Virtela's global MPLS and VPLS network into its own fold. This gave NTT 50 cloud nodes to deliver what it says are value-added services via NFV such as URL filtering, application acceleration and a variety of other appliance-based services.

Corvaia said that it can also allow users more on-demand and control over their service experience.

"These are appliance-based services that are deployed on-demand via a point and click portal that invoke SDN capabilities in the network and allow us to be able to change traffic flows based on customer configured policies that they reach through the portal," Corvaia said. "This is a seamless process that happens in a couple of minutes where policy is implemented and through a real-time provisioning model that allows businesses to spin up and spin down services on a project basis."

Similar to AT&T (NYSE: T), NTT and industry analysts are forecasting that more network traffic will be virtualized over the next five years.

A Gartner report revealed that by 2017, 10 percent of customer appliances are going to be virtualized, up from 1 percent of where it is today.

Corvaia said that NTT is expecting an even bigger number of network elements will be virtualized over the next two years.

"Our own internal research tells us that 80 percent of the market is going this way and from a competitive aspect, it's something we need to stay ahead of as the compound annual growth rates for cloud are going to continue to accelerate through 2018," Corvaia said.

Looking forward, NTT has built the foundation of what it calls its elastic services infrastructure platform. Set to go live in 2016, the platform will focus its implementation of SDN and NFV on analyzing how applications are performing.

"What's coming next in early 2016 is the elastic services infrastructure platform and taking the next generation of SDN and NFV beyond the platform edge, tighter controls, spanning the data center and more focus on analytics and visualization," Corvaia said. "It's really understanding, not just the performance and latency on the network, but the impacts to applications, network flows and driving better decisions."

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