Insight: Realising the business need for network virtualisation
By Massimo Fatato, Managing Partner at Cartesian
Anyone familiar with the industry will know that it’s currently an interesting time to be a Communication Service Provider (CSP). But, as with most sectors, it’s also a very tricky time.
While there are more opportunities than ever before, there is also more competition, coming from both traditional and Over-the-Top (OTT) services, which have changed the rules of the telecom game forever. And, although technological developments are enabling businesses to innovate in new and exciting ways, they are also presenting challenges that are often not easy to solve.
For example, the explosion in customer demands for data is stretching traditional networks to the limit, an issue which is only going to increase in the future as data requirements continue to grow.
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But this isn’t the only challenge putting CSPs under pressure to digitally transform. From controlling costs and increasing agility to efficiently scaling their networks, CSPs have a huge amount on their plate.
This is where network virtualisation comes into play. Technologies such as Software-Defined Networks (SDN) and Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) are being seen as critical to meeting today’s challenges, enabling organizations to leverage the power of cloud infrastructure and realise the potential benefits on offer.
Of course, there are a vast number of variables for businesses to consider, but the value of network virtualization is fast becoming hard to ignore.
Considering the demanding business landscape, it’s no wonder that network virtualisation is quickly gathering momentum, now boasting significant support from the industry’s major players.
Although the technology is still in its relative infancy, the multiple business and operational benefits that virtualisation offers are driving CSPs to start the transition.
For example, in the short-term the likes of greater flexibility, shorter time to market and a reduction in deployment lead times have all been cited as some of the leading business benefits.
But it’s the longer term where CSPs will likely see a real difference. Arguably the biggest opportunity will come through the creation of new services and revenue streams, which will enable CSPs to diversify their offerings and meet future customer expectations. Similarly, it will allow them to respond to issues almost in real time, as opposed to taking weeks or even months as is the case today.
On top of that, virtualisation is expected to bring increases in operational efficiencies through the ability to automate traditionally time-consuming tasks, as well as provide CapEx and OpEx cost savings. This can be realised by reducing the dependency on hardware and cutting expenses around electricity usage, the physical space required and IT labour.
Security is also a key consideration. Network virtualisation has the potential to make networks more secure for a variety of reasons, primarily due to the fact that virtual applications can be isolated and separated from the physical network to help protect against cyber-attacks.
Combine this with the additional intelligence and analytics tools that can be built in to virtualized networks to monitor for suspicious activity and security quickly becomes a clear driver for transformation.
This promise of virtualisation is why 69% of CSPs agree that network operators which do not virtualize their networks will struggle to compete, and why nearly three-quarters (74%) say that operators must implement NFV/ SDN to meet future customer needs.
There is a clear business need for modern CSPs to embrace network virtualisation as soon as possible, making it something that they simply cannot afford to ignore. Those that do, will likely find themselves falling behind their competitors in the race towards the next era of communications.
One step at a time
The combination of these business drivers provides a compelling reason for CSPs to dive headfirst into network virtualisation, but it’s worth noting that it hasn’t all been plain sailing.
Many firms have struggled to quantify the business case, with the ‘softer’ benefits such as increased flexibility being hard to quantify. This has prompted some to suggest that having a broad business case might in fact be easier to justify than any specifics.
What is certain is that there is no “one size fits all” solution to the many problems CSP are facing today, which is why a gradual and staged approach is therefore the most effective way to start a virtualisation journey.
Not only will such an approach support CSPs in reaping the short-term financial benefits, it will also provide a future platform to ease the transformation journey in the long term.
That way, CSPs can surpass their competitors and take the lead in the race towards the next era of communications.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”