In the last 10 to 15 years, the networks designed and built by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have delivered the Internet to the world – accelerating information creation and sharing far beyond the capability of wired telephony networks.

These networks have served all of us well, but our self-contained, standalone networking systems have reached the limits of their performance.

The fact is that today’s networks - whether wireless, fixed, or converged - cannot deliver the digital future we’re planning for. And this horizon is not far off:

  • By 2020, there will be 20.8 billion devices connected to the Internet – Gartner
  • Annual global IP traffic will reach 3.3 ZB per year by 2021– Cisco
  • By 2025, expect 13x growth in core network traffic and 2,000x growth in public clouds to 250 quadrillion – Bell Labs
  • Broadband speeds will nearly double by 2021- Cisco

The current network is overly-complex, unresponsive and too vulnerable to human error. This is not just a local issue - network operators internationally are examining how best to evolve beyond legacy networking technology.

At Internet Solutions, we envision a network that counters vendor lock-in, with reduced complexity and an infinite ability to scale.

This is a next-generation network that we’re building right now - optimising network infrastructure using software-defined networking (SDN) and optimising deployment of network functions using network functions virtualisation (NFV). End-to-end service management is delivered through automated provisioning, configuration and assurance.

This means agile and accurate network configuration and increased uptime by reducing human intervention, on-demand allocation of bandwidth, leveraging industry innovation with less risk and best of all, elastic billing models.

This is in stark contrast to today’s networks that rely on single-purpose, vertically-integrated, proprietary network hardware such as load balancers, firewalls, evolved packet cores and broadband network gateways. Any change in TCP/IP settings or bandwidth requirements must be accurately configured, manually, in each device before the change is realised – be that five, or 50, or 500 devices.

As much of 70% of what our engineers do every day is configure networks – they are difficult to upgrade and manage. Frankly, this should be ‘below the paygrade’ of a qualified network engineer who could be better utilised. And when we realise the expansive network of connected things, network engineers cannot possibly manage individual devices.

Our aim is to remove the difficulty in configuring simple things on the network so that we can focus on value-adding applications. A simpler network means that more apps can be supported. The number of apps currently supported are very limited by what the network can do, creating an unvirtuous circle that is stifling innovation at the IP layer.

The answers to network complexity are transparency, and standardisation. By assembling a group of technologies that are used as an expanded set of network building blocks, and exposing the network like an API, we enable clients to self-provision and -configure their networks, while we support the platform.

There is a broad community of operators and vendors including AT&T, Vodafone and Verizon that are collaborating to create standard network interfaces that remove the dependency on vendors. This challenges vendors to innovate so that vendor lock-in is not a strategy for client retention.

Through NTT, Internet Solutions is a member of Open Networking Foundation (ONF) and the Open Platform for Network Functions Virtualisation (OPNFV), collaborative projects to facilitate the development of open source SDN and NFV ecosystems.

Open, standard APIs and data models enable operators and customers to reuse service components and unified data models across vendor and technology domains. The result is consistent customer experience, reduced engineering costs and alignment to industry standards.

This is infrastructure as code, where entire networks can be defined like a piece of programming language, using any vendor’s equipment. Routers, switches, firewalls, telephony, and servers can all be virtualised into software, and embedded into single boxes intelligent enough to sense data and adjust required protocols automatically. Instead of managing networks, we’ll programme them.

The radical technology shift to cloud computing, bringing with it instant adaptability and elasticity, is finally reaching the network.

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