Windstream builds sliceable, 100% autonomous network

  • Who: Windstream Communications and Prodapt
  • What: Built a sliceable, autonomous, programmable and scalable network
  • How: Using TM Forum’s Application Framework, part of the Open Digital Framework
  • Results: 82% cost reduction in network monitoring and troubleshooting, and 100% automation from subscriber registration to service activation

The US carrier ethernet market grew nearly 9% in 2019, according to the analyst firm Verical Systems Group. Although Windstream Communications had the sixth largest share of that market, it wasn’t content to rest on its laurels. Instead, it began a digital transformation of its network, operations and customer experience, with the goal of putting technology closer to its customers.

Windstream’s new programmable, autonomous network lets consumer and enterprise customers define, manage and prioritize their services, such as SD-WAN, business broadband, managed security and Wi-Fi. For example, customers can prioritize applications and content so the most important ones get the highest network quality. A consumer, for instance, could configure her broadband service so that her PlayStation 4 is guaranteed network quality capable of supporting ultra-high-definition (UHD) virtual reality (VR) content. Businesses and consumers also can cap the amount of bandwidth that each application gets. Parents, meanwhile, can set controls for network access.

Self-service also frees Windstream staff to focus on other tasks. For instance, completely automating the order-to-activation (O2A) lifecycle reduced overhead expenses by an estimated 67%.

A seamless end-user experience

Windstream partnered with Prodapt to build a sliceable, autonomous, programmable and scalable network. Called “Project Kailash,” a top goal was ensuring a great customer experience, which included developing applications that would quickly identify and resolve problems before they became noticeable to end users. The high level of automation reduced the cost of network monitoring and troubleshooting by about 82%.

“The idea was to build a self-optimizing and self-configuring virtual infrastructure controlled by automated, intent-based policies,” says Bhaskar Madari, Senior Vice President for Delivery, Prodapt. “By enabling network intelligence at its core, Windstream was able to accurately predict the potential network failure and anticipate trends by turning mountains of data into actionable insights for the end customers.”

Windstream customers now have end-to-end network visibility into their cloud applications.

Head of Shared Technology, Division X

Prodapt’s Bhaskar Madari

“There is a growing demand from customers to control what service they want, by when they want and how they want, along with end-to-end visibility of their network,” Madari says. “Customers want to define, manage and prioritize their services as per their needs, and they want it done fast.”

The business benefits for Windstream included: 

  • 100% automation from subscriber registration to service activation
  • 100% cloud native network ensuring on-demand scalability
  • Estimated 67% reduction in overhead expenses with automated O2A lifecycle
  • Around 82% cost reduction in network monitoring and troubleshooting
  • 90% accuracy expected in traffic classification leveraging machine learning models

Leveraging the Open Digital Framework

To enable Project Kailash, open source applications were used that are aligned to TM Forum’s Application Framework. The Application Framework (otherwise known as TAM) is a sub-component of the Open Digital Framework, TM Forum’s blueprint for enabling successful business transformation. It provides a common language and means of identification for buyers and suppliers across all software application areas.

The framework was used as a reference during the design of the orchestration layer, particularly the fundamental orchestration capabilities to implement the Cloud Orchestrator and Service Orchestrator. In addition, the service capability orchestration components were referred to in order to achieve service fulfillment and service assurance in the implementation of various subscriber services.

Providing visibility by masking network complexity

“Telco networks weren’t designed keeping changing customer expectations in mind. Telcos today provide a static network design with static services, at static prices. Static legacy networks forbids customers from having any visibility and control of their service, and hinders agility and business innovation. As a result, they are not able to match the evolving customer expectations,” says Art Nichols, Vice President of Architecture and Technology, Windstream.

To provide customers with actionable insights and control, Project Kailash first had to shield them from all of the network complexity, including the alphabet soup of technology names and acronyms that are understandable to only network engineers and other telecom professionals.

Head of Shared Technology, Division X

Windstream’s Art Nichols

“The industry has done a disservice by exposing this complexity of how networking works to customers,”observes Nichols. “We need to make it simple for end users.”

Instead, network capabilities are exposed to customers via APIs or other user interfaces.

“It ultimately is the subscribers’ network,” Nichols says. “They determine what data is exposed to the service providers. They determine how to manage their network.”

Nichols uses Uber as an analogy: The ride-sharing company does a great job of estimating how long it will take to get from point A to point B, but it doesn’t have control over traffic, stoplights and everything else in between.

“That’s essentially what we’re trying to do with our network: expose control from a prioritization aspect, blocking, shaping, policing, all of the mechanisms from an IP MPLS SD-WAN perspective, expose those to the end user in a really simplified way,” Nichols says.

 

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