Driven by the need to improve ROI and differentiate themselves in a busy market, two innovators, Jim Fagan and Jon Vestal, created the Pacnet Enabled Network. This allowed customers to rapidly create new network flows and pay for bandwidth in time periods as short as one hour.
“It was really a bit of a world first in terms of the actual delivery of the network services; they could be provisioned within under ten minutes” explains Martin Bishop, Head of Programmable Networks at Telstra.
In solving Pacnet’s underutilisation issue, Jon and Jim inadvertently laid the technical groundwork for Telstra Programmable Network, which Martin says is at the heart of Telstra’s network strategy.
From subsea cables to the cloud
The Telstra Programmable Network was designed to change the way businesses think about networking in a similar way to how the cloud changed the way we think about processes. It is able to create a flow between any of Telstra’s major networking hubs with speeds of up to 10 Gb/s within 10 minutes, all via a self-service web portal.
“That’s a simple thing but its power is immense. We’re bringing the private network into a more-flexible space, because enterprise customers still require the security and performance that only private networks offer,” says Bishop.
For businesses with varying bandwidth requirements, the consumption-based model empowers them to meet the demands of seasonal commerce or hotly-anticipated announcements, without overspending across the remainder of the year.
For other organisations, its capacity for rapid provisioning enables an organisation to react to today’s disruptive market, or to reduce the risk involved in a new venture.
“This gives you the chance to act. If you can expand into new geography, spin up a piece of network and a virtual network very quickly – and don’t need to commit to a three-year contract – you reduce your risk. Therefore, your organisation can be more flexible and proactive in exploring new markets.”
The modular approach
To support rapid deployment of new services, the Telstra Programmable Network integrates smoothly into the APIs of cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS).
“It's almost like extending the Amazon experience out of the Amazon data centre and into WAN,” says Bishop.
“We're providing an extension of that experience so that when you make a change in your Amazon environment and you scale up your virtual machines, the network can do exactly the same, under a similar commercial model, on similar terms, with similar response times. You can get an end-to-end, near real-time experience of Amazon plus Telstra.”
This reflects the network’s broader design ethos, which treats network functionalities as discrete, virtual components which can be smoothly-rearranged to meet an organisation’s needs.
“One of the beautiful things about the Telstra Programmable Network is that we’re not selling packages, or a prescriptive product. What we sell is a fully-modular platform,” explains Bishop. “It’s like you've got all these building blocks. Every block is defined in a way that can connect to any other blocks. You can create outcomes, tear them down or recreate them, and reuse the blocks for multiple user cases.”
“Customers have created things we hadn't even thought of. That was kind of the dream.”
“It’s simple but its power is immense. We’re bringing the private network into a more-flexible space because enterprise customers require the security and performance that only private networks offer.”Martin Bishop, Head of Programmable Networks, Telstra.
This modular approach is key to delivering the security that enterprises expect from private lines, while delivering the scalable flexibility that underlines the network.
“Security is at the core of our marketplace of virtual network functions – users can easily spin up components like near real-time firewalls and integrate them into whatever flows they need,” says Bishop.
“An example would be a retailer who’s grown really big on a global scale and has all these district networks around the world. They could spin up the Telstra Programmable Network and connect each of those networks with a bank of firewalls; centralising connections to the internet and effectively running it as a network-control play. Thus, they could create a single, secure control point - an interconnection point for all their disparate networks.”
Your networking future, today
While it might seem like a big mental and organisational leap to move from a fixed networking model to a programmatic one, Bishop says organisations are well placed to transfer their existing cloud consumption strategies to this new model for network operations.
“It’s also important to consider how having access to these tools will change the way organisations approach network operations. They’re going to become quicker and quicker, with more network insights available in near real time and gain the ability to react more-dynamically to changing conditions. It’s an opportunity for them.
“Organisations don’t realise that this technology is available today. This is the network of the future, but it’s out there in the market and already providing value to the organisations who’re adopting it.”