CenturyLink is leveraging two of the latest big trends in digital network architecture in an effort to build an integrated customer self-service marketplace for applications and on-demand services. The telecom provider is making use of software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) to integrate its network and cloud platforms to build a ¨service-centric¨ environment few competitors are able to provide, management asserted in an October 19 press release.

With an NFV platform up and running in 36 network and data center locations in seven countries, CenturyLink intends to virtualize 40 percent of its global IP core network locations – eight more locations – by the end of the year. Plans are to achieve full global virtualization of its entire global IP core and data centers by 2018.

How CenturyLink Uses SDN and NFV
The Monroe, Louisiana-based telecom provider was one of the first to use NFV to virtualize network security features, such as firewalls, as well as to deploy a video content delivery network (CDN) for its Prism TV service. Plans are to expand the use of virtualization to include various data and voice infrastructure services, including virtualized Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) routers and customer premises equipment (CPE) so as to enhance scalability and delivery of services to customers.

“CenturyLink is taking its network assets and combining them with our expanded NFV platform and cloud services to create a customizable and dynamic applications marketplace infrastructure that will give businesses near real-time provisioning and more control over their service experience,” elaborated Aamir Hussain, CenturyLink EVP and chief technology officer in the press release.

Ciena’s so-called Blue Planet NFV Orchestrator is the means by which CenturyLink is rebuilding and integrating its core and metro networks, as well as new CPE. Small, medium-sized and large business enterprise customers access the platform through a portal and set of application programming interfaces (APIs).

“The customer experience is a top priority for CenturyLink. Integrating virtualized services into our network and developing an interactive marketplace and portal for our customers allows us to be more responsive to market opportunities and meet changing customer demands,” Hussain explained.

CenturyLink’s network virtualization and automation initiative began in 2013 when the company joined with five vendors to develop a more open networking environment accessible via common API structures, which management said creates interoperability and facilitates development of applications. In addition to Ciena, it’s working with Arista Networks, Nuage Networks, Red Hat and Supermicro.

In 2014, CenturyLink began working with Ericsson to develop a ¨next-generation¨ Operations Support System (OSS) and Business Support System (BSS) solution that makes use of a single transport infrastructure to better meet customer demands and support implementation of NFV and SDN services.

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