What Virtualisation is Doing to our Networks

Dave Wilson - HEAnet

HEAnet spends a lot of time and money deploying and managing Customer Premises Equipment (CPE). We've been working to reduce that, and so have started using virtual CPE, where the routers are virtualised inside a larger device in our datacentres instead of taking up space and power at the client site.

It's going great, but there's the potential for much more.

The advantages of virtualisation on the server side are well known. The entire field of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) comes from this one concept. There are applications, indeed whole business models, that are feasible now that the basic unit of computing is a virtual machine billed per hour with a delivery time of minutes, instead of a server costing 1000 and a delivery time of weeks.

Networking is just at the beginning of the same sort of change. Right now, we are still at the stage of routers costing thousands of euro and taking weeks or months to deliver. It slows down our service deployment. It makes the equipment very precious, so we feel the need to take out very expensive service contracts. But worst of all, it acts as a drag on our innovation. There are things we could do that we just don't even think of as possible.

Networks as a Service is our model for changing this. We can take the advantages of IaaS, and apply them to our networks. And we can go further, combining Infrastructure and Networks as a Service, so that all the elements of a new service are available on demand, as needed.

Best of all, this is already underway. Virtual CPE is our first step, and an important one, because it means that the participating institutions are ready to take advantage of these innovations today.

This talk will cover HEAnet's deployment, what's happening today, and (thanks to our work with colleagues in GEANT) the services that clients can expect to be able to use in the future.