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BLOG: Tackling the uncertainty of core network planning

Ken Lim | Aug. 15, 2011
The steady increase in network traffic with unpredictable volume, characteristics and patterns can no longer be defined in terms of bandwidth and speed alone.

The predictable "connect point A to point B" service model of the voice-only years has almost entirely disappeared. In its place is an "anywhere, anytime, any service" connection model driven by the proliferation of mobile users accessing video and data intensive services from whatever device they have at hand. The result? A steady increase in network traffic - about 40 percent year over year - with unpredictable volume, characteristics, and patterns that can no longer be defined in terms of bandwidth and speed alone.

To avoid breaking the economics of core network provisioning, service providers must extract every bit of cost out of their networks without compromising services or reducing quality of experience for their end-users. Success hinges on finding a more economical, efficient and effective model for building and maintaining core transport networks.

Traditional models are unsustainable

Traditionally, service providers have relied on circuit switching in their core networks. But circuit-switching requires them to provision for the worst case, with enough bandwidth and infrastructure to handle all possible traffic peaks in order to avoid losing traffic.

The perceived economic benefits of this model break down when confronted by the realities of today's busy traffic patterns. Traffic swings unpredictably between highs and lows, with peaks that can be higher than 12 times the average.

A variety of factors are driving an exponential traffic growth curve that signifies a real threat to service provider economics, as costs appear primed to out-pace revenue within the next couple of years. Backbone providers need to invest in infrastructure to cope with this growth but there is no guarantee that they will earn a profit on those investments, for much of the traffic does not intrinsically bear revenue.

Service providers must balance the value of the technology and the solutions they deliver against the required capital and operations but it is critical that their network cores be able to accommodate unpredictable traffic patterns that are changing dramatically, driven by:

  • The ever-increasing amount of new applications being introduced and the unpredictability this brings in terms the type of application, the number of users and the bandwidth requirements to support them.
  • The consolidation of data centres and the advent of cloud networking, which enables content and computer resources to be migrated from location to location, based on where they need to be consumed.
  • The ever-increasing amount of video on the network and the associated caching strategies aimed at better managing the flow of video traffic.
  • Increased mobility of the content users which is rapidly degrading the efficiency of aggregation networks because they rely on knowing where the users are, content is stored and where peering points are located - all which, in a more mobile world, is fluid and dynamic.


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