Although most industry media attention and tradeshow marketing is focused on fun, cool (e.g., AR/VR, autonomous vehicle), and, at times, way out there (e.g., passenger drones) use cases, the opportunities that many network operators and service providers are interested in addressing today are related to supporting new and innovative enterprise services, and in helping to alleviate network bottlenecks.

On the enterprise servies front, It is fair to say that they days of business customers needing reliable phone service and available internet are largely gone. In order to support a wide, and growing range of services related to employee BYOD schemes, public, private and hybrid cloud networking, consolidated branch networking via SD-WAN, and many other service possibilities, network operators must move on from the paradigm where access circuits are wedded to a specific type of core network transport. Here, virtualization at the network edge will have a huge enabling role to play in terms of being able to support the service agility, scalability and network flexibility required to meet a diverse set of enterprise connectivity needs.

OpEx savings still drives many purchase decisions

While new revenue streams are vital to helping operators grow their top line, a critically important deployment driver that helps to quantify the near-term ROI potential of edge network virtualization is still rooted in the ability to save operating costs. In terms of OpEx at the edge of the network the ability to perform cost effective traffic breakout can be a big ROI driver.  As a case in point, several years ago Netflix realized that the video traffic that it was putting on to the network was creating an untenable situation for itself as an OTT player, and the operator networks that carried the traffic.  As such, they proactively engaged in a cloud-based CDN strategy that helped them to cache content, and enable a more localized service delivery model.

Today, while Netflix remains a prime source of video content traversing operator networks, it is far from the only source.  Several industry sources, including the GSMA, are projecting that by 2025, 75% of network traffic would be video traffic. As a potential solution to this issue, technology suppliers are designing solutions that can be deployed as virtual network element(s) that can sit at the edge and breakout video traffic that can either be kept local, or transported directly to the cloud.  In turn, this helps to keep a substantial portion of video traffic from traversing an operator’s core network.

While local traffic breakout does not garner the headlines as driverless cars, it is becoming a key mechanism by which operators can help to control traffic growth in the core of their networks.  Case in point, Mavenir published a study in which it estimated that as much as one-third of the video traffic on today’s networks could be handled by local traffic breakout. In turn, the offloading of this traffic enabled CapEx on core network capacity expansion to be deferred by up to two years. What’s more, traffic shaping solutions by traditional deep packet inspection (DPI) vendors also promise similar benefits of deferring CapEx through smart traffic management schemes.

Taken together, these solutions, and the subsequent network efficiencies that they can help to create allow operators to better orchestrate capital spending as part of broader, more holistic network transformation agenda(s), as opposed to reactive spending simply to keep up with increasing capacity demands.

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