Content Providers Catch the SDN Wave

by Arthur Nichols
February 18, 2019

Like so many buzzwords, SDN (software-defined networking) has been abused, perhaps that’s why several companies have been hiding it1, and aspects of SDN are taking on new names such as network automation and intent-based networking—and, of course, SD-WAN (for SDN at the edge). Whatever you call it, SDN is based on the deceivingly simple principle of decoupling network control and forwarding functions, increasing network agility in many ways:

  • Enabling better use of network resources, allowing available capacity to be multi-purpose rather than an overprovisioned dedicated environment.
  • Creating “self-optimizing” networks that run on policies that can also be changed in
    real time.
  • Simplifying—thus accelerating, the provisioning, troubleshooting and ongoing management of bandwidth.
  • Reducing the amount of time it takes to push new enhancements and features to end-users, improving the customer experience and bringing in new revenue quicker.

Content providers utilizing SDN (software-defined networking) to improve content delivery on their network.

Reaping the benefits of SDN

These benefits of SDN impact all facets of networking. It’s made its mark in the world of content delivery, making content delivery networks elastic and able to support bandwidth bursting through pre-determined policies rather than guessing how much bandwidth is needed in advance of high-traffic viewing. As over-the-top (OTT), on‑demand content continues to rise in popularity, software-defined networking allows content providers to save on both CAPEX and OPEX investments. Of course, the potential applications for SDN go well beyond CDN.

Service providers have been implementing SDN, although a lot of the work done to date falls under the “un-sexy” category. Reaping the benefits of SDN requires a great deal of foundational work. You need a real-time understanding of what network resources are available and their relationships. You must be able to configure disparate equipment across multiple domains through an abstracted software layer. You must also automate provisioning workflows and processes. This foundational work is needed to enable flexible and controllable “sexy” products.

The Windstream Wholesale advantage

At Windstream Wholesale, we’ve combined SDN with complementary technologies (network function virtualization and programmable network), overlaid on our nationwide fiber backbone to create our Cloud CoreTM network architecture which is the foundation for our portfolio of networking services. With this approach, we’ve improved the speed to provision and deploy necessary high-capacity connections such as wavelengths for content providers that constantly need additional bandwidth and unique routing to improve the delivery of high-definition content to end-users.

Today, content providers can benefit from Windstream Wholesale’s ultra-fast provisioning of wavelengths up to 100 Gbps via our Cloud Core network architecture and diverse routes connecting PoPs in Tier 2 and Tier 3 markets to most popular Tier 1 PoPs, carrier hotels and data centers, bringing content closer to their end-users and improving the overall content experience.

Gone are the days of pre-provisioning physical hardware well in advance of hard‑to‑anticipate events in an attempt to keep up with the public’s insatiable appetite for on‑demand content. SDN has enabled a clearer path for all the supporting elements of content delivery. And, with the foundation laid, the future possibilities seem limitless.