There's money in improving WAN connectivity to the likes of AWS, Azure and Google

WAN capacity pains are hot

The global WAN infrastructure capacity debate will be a feature of the upcoming Cloud Expo Europe event in April ( And hopefully the debate will also explore the financial advantages to be gained by infrastructure providers from closer cooperation with cloud service providers.

This year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) also highlighted many of the network capacity challenges – mostly from the carrier perspective. This led Mark Zuckerberg to remark that he may need to use laser transmissions from light aircraft and some 10,000 old school hotspots to open up access to Facebook in India. Both parties, infrastructure and content providers agree that: – 2016 will see fast growth take-up of cloud services and a shift from private cloud to hybrid managed and public cloud computing.

Enterprises will massively shift from private cloud only deployments to hybrid private-public cloud solutions. – Fewer and bigger cloud SPs. The mega-players like AWS, Google and Azure with global infrastructures will take a bigger slice of the market – We can expect 30% annual growth in Internet traffic volumes – more so on the mobile side – Commoditisation, standardisation, virtualisation spells a richer communication environment to accommodate the many varieties of cloud services.

‘If it computes, it connects – more every day’

To keep abreast of cloud computing where scalable and elastic IT-enabled capabilities are delivered “as a service” using Internet technologies, telco infrastructure providers must co-operate more and share resources with cloud service providers.

They share a common interest in developing open, modular and expandable network architectures to keep up with customer demands for more bandwidth and ubiquitous network access. However, the carrier infrastructure providers’ litany of pains is well known:

  • The net neutrality regulations imposed on them invalidates attempts to charge specifically for additional bandwidth or higher quality connections across the Internet.
  • The huge growth in video communication across the Internet has strained their infrastructure everywhere, and the investments in last mile broadband connections must rely on customers buying quad service bundles.
  • The emergence of software-defined WAN routing, that provides channel bonding across fixed line, cellular and Internet connections reduces the demand for enterprise Quality of Service products like MPLS.

A New Deal between carriers and clouds

The way forward requires a rethink in the infrastructure provider community. Carriers must understand what the cloud provides are trying to deliver, and help them get there. The storage and computing revenues that many cloud providers rely on, requires secure and responsive WANs, and that means faster roll-out of high-speed infrastructure – not just on the heavy traffic routes, but also widespread, high-speed 3G and 4G LTE mobile access. Many of these global cloud SPs are willing to invest in design and roll out of extended WAN networks.

Improving core WAN performance

Improving Internet transport capabilities and security is coming up against the fundamental Internet Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) which is running out of steam. Fast expanding network traffic volumes create longer maintenance windows required to update routing tables. Errors in this updating process may lead to route hijacking, when a hacker uses BGP to announce illegitimate routes directing users to bogus web pages. BGP was never designed with security in mind. BGP routing table overflow has caused sudden outages in services such as eBay, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Comcast. Software Defined Networking (SDN) will certainly alleviate some of these issues when the SDN controllers can read and revalidate routing policies as fast as changes happen and then configure routers in real time.

Monetising traffic analytics

Better real-time network management will not only improve the cloud experience; it may also improve infrastructure economics. The ability to use big data analytics to identify anomalies in BGP routing behaviour, will also allow infrastructure operators to monetise the user traffic behaviour they log, but seldom use. Thousands of analytics companies have sprung up around the globe analysing users’ web site behaviour. However, the digital service providers are also very interested in understanding and adjusting real-time their access network performance. Faster SDN infrastructure build-outs will improve traffic flows and cloud performance. That could in turn become a win-win for carriers and the cloud providers.