February 14, 2005
Even as the enterprise Grid market matures, it is surprising how little discussion has occurred detailing exactly how enterprise Grid sites will be interconnected. Many questions arise. How will true virtualization of computing and storage resources be realized? Will the connections be based on dedicated private lines or private networks, optical channels on demand, Layer 2 (e.g., frame relay, ATM or Ethernet) virtual private networks (VPNs), IP-VPNs, IP-MPLS VPNs or some new network technology? Will the network scale to accommodate many more users and additional interconnected Grid sites? What access network will remote users and/or satellite sites use to "dial in" to access the Grid computer complex? Who will manage such a network, what will be managed and what are the Service Level Agreement (SLA) parameters between customer and service provider?
The generic answer to all the above is a set of managed network services. While service providers continue to focus on growing revenues while cutting costs, user adoption of managed services continues to rise as the benefits to those users become increasingly apparent. Companies in a variety of vertical markets are realizing myriad business improvements, productivity gains and cost reductionsall as a result of outsourcing some network services to service providers in order to focus on core business strengths.
Service providers are deploying several types of managed services, especially different types of VPNs, while developing integrated services (e.g., data, voice, video, storage) to meet growing user requirements beyond site-to-site connectivity. These developments continue to have significant implications in terms of service-provider profitability, customer loyalty and market differentiation. At the same time, the underlying carrier infrastructure is evolving toward a next-generation network (NGN)* with more intelligence and better user control. This creates a multitude of new service opportunities in the small business and enterprise markets.
* See GRIDtoday article, "In Search of the NGN" in Jan. 17, 2005, issue:
Managing in the Managed Network
The service provider manages either the CPE, network service or both. For a managed network service, levels of performance, security, availability and reliability may be specified as part of an SLA. For that reason, many refer to "managed services" as being SLA-based. At this time, each provider defines its own service-dependent set of SLAs.
Cisco on Managed Services
Earlier this month, Cisco held a webinar on managed services. The company defines four classes of network services, of which the latter three are managed in some way. Cisco sees huge revenue potential in the integrated (VPN) type of service.
The quartet of service classes is defined as follows:
In short, Cisco's managed services strategy is to maximize service provider revenue through network- and CPE-based managed services. Managed network-based services include connectivity (traditional L1-L3), value-added services (L4-L7), application services and business process outsourcing.
Network Services Customers Have Deployed
Cisco recently conducted what it called an "Enterprise-Service Provider Connect" survey. The findings included:
Cisco's View on Successful Managed Service
Quality of service (QoS) is critical to providing the guarantees that are an integral part of any managed service. Only one in three enterprise customers, however, has deployed QoS-based WAN connections. Adding to the conundrum: It was said that some business customers need six or seven levels of QOS to support their applications.
QoS interoperability across carrier domains is a huge, unresolved issue. This problem needs to be solved for wider deployment of long haul managed services. In particular, connecting grid sites in different countries with a VPN would require inter-carrier QoS.
Security should be part of "an integrated services VPN." SLAs should specify the various types and levels of security. This might include firewall, authentication, authorization, identity management, encryption, intrusion detection and prevention, anti-virus and anti-worm.
Cisco's version of the IP NGN suggests collapsing the seven-layer OSI protocol stack into three layers. From top to bottom, they are:
Cisco's Integrated Services Router (ISR) product line was touted as the delivery vehicle for managed services. It includes one-touch provisioning capability, which accelerates service provider time to realizing revenue. By speeding provisioning time, the provider gets services to market faster and realizes revenue sooner. ISR provides embedded security and voice/IP telephony as well as high availability, resiliency and upward compatibility.
Cisco is partnering with service providers (such as BT) to realize its vision of managed services within NGNs. According to Cisco, BT is first among the carriers to have a "tighter systems integration approach with the applications layer." Cisco is also partnering with IT outsourcing firms, such as IBM, HP and Accenture, to deliver better managed services involving applications and system integration.
Cisco believes managed services help service providers move up their customer's value chain while decreasing churn and increase ARPU. Managed services are of sizable interest to users, but they require network intelligence (e.g., QoS, integrated services VPN, etc.) that does not exist in today's networks in order for the vision to be realized.
Web Services' Role in Managed Networks
Web services can be effectively used by service providers to manage NGN services, independent of the specific service or network technology. This capability is referred to as Service Level Management (SLM) because the service--rather than the underlying network technology--is being managed. [Verizon refers to SLM capability as "command and control" and has implemented more than 70 applications on a web services platform]. Note that the use of Web services for SLM is independent of its use in building Grid infrastructures, as per the Global Grid Forum (GGF) specifications (see below).
Web services are specifically distributed services that process XML-encoded SOAP messages. They are sent over HTTP transport and described using Web services description language (WSDL). Today, they are being deployed broadly. Web services are used in a range of application integration scenarios: from simple, ad hoc, behind-the-firewall, data sharing to very large-scale Internet retailing and stock market trading. Increasingly, web services are being applied in grid computing scenarios that are being standardized by the GGF. Web services provide interoperability between software components that can communicate between different companies and reside on different infrastructures. This solves one of the most critical problems facing customers, software developers and partners.
The benefits of web services in SLM include:
Web Services for SLM Within Managed Networks
Web Services technology is best used in four distinct areas of SLM:
Managed Network Service for Grids
The selection of network connectivity and managed services for Grids decomposes into the following set of unanswered questions and issues:
Managed services, particularly those using IPv6 addressing,
together with metro optical Ethernet (a hybrid IP-Ethernet VPN) offer the most
potential for Grid site interconnection and remote access to the Grid computer
Performance, cost effectiveness and scalability will be key issues to consider by service providers in selection of the network technology. SLA parameter selection, negotiation and compliance assessment will be paramount to customers in their evaluation of managed services from a provider. Maintaining SLAs when internetworking between service providers should be carefully considered when one or more endpoints can not be reached by a single provider's network.
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