Verizon's Hakl on the importance of proactive management of network topology

Verizon Enterprise Solutions is taking a proactive approach to managing network topology. (Pixabay)

In the traditional telco world, a customer was often the alarm when something failed, but with today's complex networks, telcos need to be proactive.

Shawn Hakl, Verizon's senior vice president of business products, said that by managing network topology proactively, telcos were able to prevent outages before they occurred while also enjoying the benefits of more resilient services.

Although most carriers are moving toward the virtualization and automation of their networks by implementing software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV), networks have become increasingly more complex, which means there are more elements to keep track of and more areas for potential issues.

Hakl said Verizon has built a deep implementation of orchestration with closed-loop service assurance, which gives it the ability to build service chains composed of multiple functions.

"In this model, we're pre-correlating everything and managing the topology proactively," Hakl said. "So you're actively able to prevent outages, versus reacting to them.

"If you're trying to think traditional network management techniques and overlay this stuff, you'll drown in complexity by doing that. But with a little bit of smart work on that front end, you have a much better outcome and a much more resilient service."

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The service chains allow Verizon Enterprise Solutions to build business implementations in the network. The telco has a customer innovation lab where it jointly develops service chains with business customers.

"The interesting twist on this is we actually created something we call physical transport managers, which are a virtual representation of a physical circuit," Hakl explained. "We created APIs into the network that let you manipulate the network as if it was a virtual element. So now I've got the ability to service chain the network, along with virtual applications, along with a consolidated policy layer. And that's all organized around creating business outcomes and SLAs (service level agreements).

"Do I want a business-to-business connection? Do I want business-to-consumer connection? Do I want Internet traffic delivered at a certain cost and performance ratio? Do I want a resilient tier access that incorporates MPLS plus wireless backup?"

Hakl said all these examples of options could be service chained together so customers were buying software algorithms that they need around the business outcomes that they want.

"We took the APIs that were available in our backend systems and basically moved them into a framework where we could integrate them with the orchestrator," Hakl said. "When we put together a service chain, you could make policy for that whole service chain, including the network elements, based on what was available with the API set, which is essentially a virtual representation of the physical network connection."

For example, a business-to-business customer may want its own internal network to connect with a partner, which could include a firewall on one end to make sure only the business partner has access to the network, a firewall over the top, encryption and a tunnel so nobody else sees the data.

"What that means from the control perspective is I've now got the ability to basically build those functions, put them in the network, pass them into our CMDB (configuration management database) completely linked, and then past our service assurance engine so that you're monitoring the whole service."

Hakl said Verizon was doing something similar on its secure cloud interconnect product.

"We're exposing the characteristics of that connection as a software representation of the physical connection," he said. "So we build those service chains and then you can build your policy end-to-end."