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How have virtual and hybrid networks changed the way services are managed

There has been a great deal written about the promise of virtual and hybrid networks. But how has this new technology changed the way networks are built? And how will it change the way services are managed?

Traditional networks were built to address specific service needs and requirements; additionally, they were scaled to address the anticipated capacity. In other words, a traditional network was purposely built for a specific service or set of services. Developing new services or scaling the network to handle more services than expected involved lengthy, expensive planning as well as engineering projects, often lasting nine months or more. This was carried out in order to ensure that the new service could be fit into the existing network without impacting the others services.

Virtual networks, on the other hand, are built using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers along with specialized software applications called virtual network functions (VNF), in order to implement the building blocks of the carrier network. Consequently, virtual networks are not built for any specific service and are easily scalable by simply adding more COTS servers. Additionally, new services can be created in days, rather than months, using a DevOps approach to building service chains of Virtualized Network Functions (VNF).

This revolutionary change will also impact the way carriers manage their customers’ services. By moving service assurance functionality out of network equipment, as in traditional networks, and into a VFN, service assurance can now become part of the service definition as well as an inherent part of the service itself. This provides real-time end-to-end quality metrics, which can in turn be used to manage customers’ overall quality of experience (QoE).