Verizon has been reaping the rewards of web-scale principles, including in its cloud-operating platform and cloud applications, according to the telco's Rick Hornby.
The benefits of web-scale services and operations include; lower costs, improved operating efficiency, quicker delivery of new services, increased capacity, network slicing capabilities and simpler automated testing, according to Hornby, Verizonís executive director of core network technology planning.
In this Telco Transformation Q&A, Hornby said that companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon have driven web-scale architectures, and fostered an ecosystem that telecom players can use.
Telco Transformation: How do you define web-scale operations and services internally, and why are they important?
Rick Hornby: For the last several years, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) has been migrating network applications that previously ran on purpose-built bare metal appliances to our cloud platform. This platform is an x86-based, OpenStack environment deployed at Verizonís core and edge data centers, domestically and internationally, which allows us to reduce hardware, software and operational costs while improving service deployment velocity.
Web-scale architecture is loosely defined as an approach that cloud and cloud application providers use to handle large amounts of data on the web. At web-scale, small inefficiencies are exaggerated and companies look to solve these in many innovative ways.
Verizonís drive toward web-scale operations focuses on both our cloud platform operating environment and the applications that run there. These efforts are important because they will drive greater efficiency and reliability.
TT: What role have they played in Verizon's digital transformation?
RH: Verizon has seen several benefits as it migrates from bare-metal, purpose-built hardware appliances to a common infrastructure. We expect this common hardware infrastructure to reduce cost while improving operational efficiency. Capacity and new service deployment timeframes will be improved [and we will also see] simplified testing of new services, including an increased use of test automation.
And finally, the ability to deploy software instances of network elements on a common hardware platform permits network slicing, which allows Verizon to deploy new products like IoT that are optimized to specific traffic models rather than a one size fits all model.
We continue to work on optimizing network functions as we drive toward more cloud-native, elastically scalable designs.
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TT: Facebook, Google and Amazon are viewed as web-scale pioneers, but are these principles that Verizon was already working toward? If not, when did you start adopting them?
RH: Large, reliable, distributed packet and message processing systems are the foundation of telecommunication networks, and many web-scale concepts are built on this foundation. With that said, while optimizing their own networks and applications, web-scale Internet companies have driven significant innovation in the cloud environment and created an ecosystem that Verizon and others can benefit from.
TT: Where have web-scale Internet companies had the biggest impact for telcos in general and Verizon in particular?
RH: The most obvious area where web-scale Internet companies have had an impact on telco architecture is in the development of cloud systems like OpenStack and Kubernetes, and big data technologies like Hadoop. Each of these were born out of, or developed in response to, the web-scale community created by big Internet companies and then contributed to the larger community as open source.
Another web-scale concept that has had an impact on telecommunications architecture is the movement of reliability from hardware to software using distributed systems principles. Traditionally, network system reliability was based on hardware redundancy. This approach works well for moderately-sized deployments. However, scalability can be improved using application redundancy across hardware shared by many applications assuming appropriate affinity rules. In addition to increased scalability, this also may provide additional reliability options.
TT: What about the use of web-scale operations and services for virtualization -- such as VNFs -- as well as prepping for 5G?
RH: Verizon continues to evolve all virtualized network functions supporting our 4G networks to our cloud platform, while our 5G networks will be deployed this way from scratch. Currently, 3GPP standards are being developed for 5G that include a services-based architecture with network and RAN-slicing concepts.
TT: Do they play a role in microservices?
RH: Microservices will be a building block in our network evolution toward web-scale architectures and are closely associated with cloud-native architectures. Microservices often, but not always, run in a container environment. This is driving changes within our cloud architecture. Verizon is committed to driving our applications toward microservices and a web-scale-based approach that we believe has many benefits. We are evolving our cloud platform with features and functionality to support them.
— Carl Weinschenk, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation