It looks like 2011 will be the year of the mature IP backbone. If telecom networks could be likened to life cycles, 2010 will likely be remembered as the year the IP backbone hit puberty -- suffering through sudden and awkward growth spurts in data traffic, network speeds, services, devices and applications.
Now that they've gotten their footing, service providers are entering 2011 with aggressive plans to upgrade their networks to support and monetize this growth. SearchTelecom.com recently spoke with four Tier 1 operators about their network objectives for 2011. In part one of a two-part series, we discuss the Verizon IP backbone with Ihab Tarazi, vice president for global network planning and engineering at Verizon Business.
Vice President of Global Network Planning and Engineering, Verizon Business
Building a bigger IP backbone
Like every Tier 1 network operator, Verizon has an IP backbone that has felt the strain of continuous and dramatic traffic growth related to video content, mobile data, business customers and its consumer fiber to the home (FTTH) broadband service, FiOS.
Verizon will continue to expand its IP backbone in 2011 to scale and support that growth, most notably by upgrading its global backbone from 10 and 40 Gbps to 100 Gbps, Tarazi said.
"That gives you a big step [up] in terms of capacity. And the same technology that we're using for 100G also gives us lower latency and operational improvements in being able to activate the capacity quickly," he said.
Upgrades to Verizon's network switches and fiber optic infrastructure will occur in phases "to support 100G where we need it," Tarazi said. Verizon has chosen Ciena Corp. and Juniper Networks as its primary vendors.
"We definitely consider ourselves first in the globe in deploying it in the optical layer and then most recently at the IP layer," he said. "We already deployed the technology in Europe. We are deploying the technology in the U.S. as we speak, and this is going to continue to be part of our plan for the global IP in the next few years -- 2011 and beyond."
Enhanced IPv6 support on the IP backbone
Over the next year, Verizon will continue to expand its IPv6 support and dual-stack services to enable customers across the globe to connect to its IPv6 network, "regardless of what product they use from us," Tarazi said. IPv6 migration work on the IP backbone began about five years ago, he said.
"We want to provide the same kind capabilities we have on IPv4 today on IPv6," Tarazi said. "Part of that strategy is expanding our ability to support IPv6 for consumers, both wireless as well as broadband consumers like FiOS. That will continue to be a key priority for us. We started a couple of years ago, and 2011 will be a continuation of that focus."
Currently, Verizon is testing dual-stack support on "every piece of the network," he said. Although Verizon will have to make some new equipment purchases to replace noncompliant devices and systems, Tarazi said that most of the implementation will cover testing and upgrading legacy hardware and software.
"I would say half of the work -- at least -- is engineering, designing, testing and enabling the compatibility end-to-end," he said. "Sometimes it's application-specific. There are so many different elements. VoIP… has its own IP path [and] its own IP capabilities; therefore, you have to test that and design it. So, not only is it the backbone layer but also the service layer on top. "
Verizon "feels pretty comfortable" that every piece of its private and public global IP networks will be IPv6-capable by early 2011, Tarazi said.
Readying the IP backbone for cloud, video
Building a network that's ready to support next-generation services -- namely cloud computing and video content delivery -- will be another focus for Verizon in 2011, Tarazi said.
In terms of video content delivery, Verizon recently launched a FiOS service called Flex View, which uses the IP network to enable consumers to watch video on demand on their computers and smartphones, in addition to televisions. Launching that service required Verizon to deploy video optimization software in its IP network, Tarazi said.
"You'll see more and more announcements from us [next year] about how we're managing content by giving consumers and business customers better capabilities and more value-add out of the IP network," he said.
As for its cloud strategy, Verizon recently launched Computing as a Service (CaaS) products in Amsterdam, Hong Kong and throughout the United States. Cloud security and other services will follow in 2011, as Verizon continues to upgrade its backbone to support the rigorous demands of cloud computing, Tarazi said.
"The IP network needs to not only connect the customers to the data centers at high speeds, but also have low latencies between data centers so that people can use multiple data centers for backup and as a virtual device overall," he said. "It's different from the way the network is designed today. Most networks are designed to optimize the connection from one computer to another one … miles away -- in another country maybe."
Stay tuned: Next we'll discuss more wireless network and IP backbone objectives for 2011 with Sprint Nextel Corp., NTT America and Global Crossing.
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer.