The pandemic has shown us all the importance of the internet as a means to work, to educate our children, to communicate with healthcare professionals and to maintain sanity at home using streaming services and gaming to entertain ourselves and the aforementioned children, in a period where our movement has been somewhat constrained. Cisco have been looking at traffic reports from peering points and estimate that this has driven a 25% to 45% spike in internet traffic throughput in various regions around the globe.

The shift to remote working

In the corporate world, employees and customers moved from offices and branches to working from home and online interaction, and what seems likely is that this will become the new norm for many. According to a recent survey by US-based Enterprise Research Technology , the number of employees permanently working remotely is set to double in 2021. Companies have seen increases in productivity and many employees have seen an improvement in their quality of life (as much as is possible in pandemic conditions). This means an accelerated shift of enterprise wide area network traffic from “private networks linking offices and branches” to “use of the internet from home”.

Growth of internet traffic

The growth of internet traffic is set to continue. Based on Cisco’s Annual Internet Report 2018 – 2023, 66% of the global population will be using the internet in 2023 (up from 51% in 2018), the average fixed line broadband speed globally will reach 110Mb/s in 2023 (up from 46Mb/s in 2018) and average wireless internet access speed will have more than tripled over the same period to reach 44Mb/s globally. Many countries are seeing investment into fibre to the home, meaning gigabit internet access will be in easy reach of an increasing number of home and business locations. And then there is the impact of 5G which will revolutionise mobile internet connection speeds and through technology such as network slicing, enable performance previously only seen over fixed networks to be delivered with the flexibility of wireless access. Let us also not forget about the eventual arrival of the internet of things.

The economics of the internet

It should be noted that internet access is generally unmetered, so the revenues to service providers grow by adding new customers, and slightly by selling faster services to existing customers but increased bandwidth typically means increased cost more than it means increased revenue – especially for the internet backbone providers.

Cisco to the rescue?

It is therefore good to see that telco vendor giants such as Cisco are throwing their might into ways to reduce costs for their service provider customers. Recently they have announced their Internet for the future vision. Here they have brought together five years of research and investment into their mass-scale infrastructure portfolio aimed at enabling service providers to meet this bandwidth growth with architectural simplicity, reduced costs and more manageable risks. Advances in Cisco networking silicon capabilities as part of their Cisco Silicon One portfolio – “a single architecture which provides the highest bandwidth routing and web scale switching silicon in the industry” are enabling routers with ever increasing packet throughput capability. Furthermore, a recent announcement of their routed optical networking capability, enabled in part by their acquisition of leading optical networking company Acacia Communications inc which competed in March this year, enables the integration of the traditionally separate optical WDM transport layer and the IP network switching layer into a single router with optical interface cards – the Cisco 8000 series routers.

A change in IP networking architecture

This is a change that should enable significant simplification in the build and operation of high-capacity networks supporting IP traffic. Economics to date have driven the separate deployment of two key network layers. The first being the optical layer – a collection of Optical Transport Network (OTN) switches, optical transponders, and Reconfigurable Optical Add-Drop Multiplexers (ROADMs) which provide a very-high-capacity optical path networking. The second being the IP routing layer, where limitations in cost-effective high-throughput routers have led to the concept of “router by-pass”, using the optical layer to avoid the need to carry very large volumes of transit traffic through each IP router. In many if not most operators these layers are from different vendors, owned by different technical teams and drive a significant systems and people cost to integrate into an efficient IP service.

Studies indicate TCO savings close to 50% over 5 years

In the Cisco vison, these layers become one. ACG Research has recently published a paper looking at network operator total cost of ownership comparing a traditional router-bypass architecture with separate optical and IP layers to that of a converged solution in this case using the high-throughput Cisco 8000 routers with 400GB optical interface cards linking direct to fibre. Their analysis concludes that for the traditional solutions, 5-year costs split about 50% as Opex and 50% as Capex. The main Opex costs are technical support costs, which halve as you move from two layers/two technologies to a single layer, then labour costs for service assurance and adds/changes. A singe IP networking layer solution looks to reduce these costs by 80%, leading to an overall opex cost reduction of 57% over 5 years.  This added to the capex reduction of 35% leads to a blended total cost of ownership saving of 46%.

An affordable future

Cisco’s Internet for the Future vision also includes a modular operating system to support this integrated solution – the Cisco IOS XR, and the Cisco Crosswork network management automation suite. In all, this new capability shows one vendor at least investing heavily to ensure the financial viability for network service providers to continue to meet the increasing bandwidth demands for internet traffic around the world.

A secure future for internet underlay

We are seeing increased demand for internet transport, we are seeing increased availability of the speeds and performance that enable the replacement of much of the enterprise MPLS WAN estate and we are seeing the telco equipment vendors delivering on innovation and cost-saving solutions to enable this demand to be met sustainably into the future.

Here at Brodynt we specialise in internet as your transport underlay – a good choice of business into a growing market. We are here to take out the complexity of multi-country and multi-technology deployments and to enable you to exploit this growing internet revolution with a single partner dedicated to this technology and dedicated to your success.

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