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“R2-D2, you know better than to

trust a strange computer.” - C-3PO

The public Internet was not

purpose-built for the delivery of

real-time communications. How-

ever, delivering real-time com-

munications is essential for busi-

nesses, large and small, and it is

being done through the adoption

of modern software, network and

infrastructure paradigms. With the

ever-decreasing costs of these

technologies, the industry has

seen adoption from even the small-

est businesses in the most remote

parts of the world. An upstart oper-

ator can now leverage now general-

ly available technologies to provide

real-time communications services

alongside industry incumbents us-

ing more traditional paradigms.

Real-time communications can

be made ultra-reliable and high-

fidelity through combining network

automation, strategic peering

relationships and cloud-agnostic

points of presence (PoPs). Wheth-

er you are familiar with these

concepts or they’re something

that your company has not yet en-

countered, you will see why some

of the most forward-thinking firms

are driving adoption of and placing

their trust in these architectures

and technologies.

Network Automation

Network management has been

going through an evolution during

the past few years in which network

operators and organizations are

making automation a key driver in

their strategy for building and man-

aging their infrastructures. While

software-defined networking (SDN)

and network function virtualization

(NFV) tend to receive the most atten-

tion, there are a number of obstacles

that are making the transition difficult

and slowing adoption. In the interim,

however, there are intermediary steps

that operators can take to begin the

transition to more centrally managed

and automated networks. One such

step is the implementation of net-

work automation such as zero-touch

provisioning (ZTP).

A zero-touch network implies the

shift away from direct configuration

via command-line interface (CLI) of

network devices to the use of auto-

mation platforms. These platforms

come in a variety of forms, but have

the common goal of removing hu-

man interaction from the CLI by al-

lowing the creation of deterministic

environments through configuration

management. With ZTP, organiza-

tions can pre-determine everything

from baseline configurations to

more complex configurations such

as building configurations to imple-

ment a customer network that

spans a global IP backbone.

This can ensure that something

as simple as an interface descrip-

tion or a VLAN name follow the de-

signed naming conventions. We can

deterministically build everything

without concern over whether a BGP

(border gateway protocol) peering

was built correctly. Therefore, if your

BGP peers should always “send

communities,” then ZTP is your

best bet in being 100 percent de-

terministic. That’s compared to an

engineer who may mistakenly skip a

line of configuration due to manual

configuration from the CLI.

After provisioning is complete,

these same platforms can be used to

maintain networks. For example, using

tools like Ansible, network engineers

are beginning to build complex plat-

forms and create front- and backend

systems to manage an entire network

infrastructure. Imagine that the source

of truth of an environment now exists

within your automation platform’s

backend database instead of text files

of configurations that may or may not

be current and relevant.

Clearly, the benefits of this para-

digm are enormous. Engineers can

build platforms that routinely check

for changes in the live environment

and can take action against rogue

configurations that do not meet

By Ian











The rise of network automation and shared

infrastructure in delivering real-time communications