Telecommunications provider BT has taken the wraps off its "bandwidth on demand" offering, enabling customers to turn up and down the speeds they're using at will under consumption-based pricing.
As stage one of BT's new Dynamic Network Services, which also comprises on-demand virtual services and on-demand software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN), bandwidth on demand is available now, with a number of customers live trialling the system in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa, Johannesburg, and China.
Speaking to ZDNet, BT Global Services chief architect for Asia, the Middle East, and Africa Matt Allcoat said the company is now gauging interest from large multinational customers in Australia -- although Allcoat added that it is hard to see customers turning down the opportunity to turn a dial to make their internet connection faster or slower within one to two minutes, and pay accordingly.
"In the past, people have had to buy and they've had to guess what is the most they'll ever use," he said.
"This allows you to adjust the network performance to be actually what you want at that point in time."
A fibre connection is required for bandwidth on demand, with the dial allowing for the minimum and maximum possible speeds capable across each customer's equipment and connection.
Dynamic Network Services, which Allcoat described being "the first exciting thing we've had since about 2005", also extends BT's "Cloud of Clouds" solution -- which connects customers to cloud collaboration apps, security services, third-party datacentres, customer datacentres, and third-party cloud services including Cisco, AWS, Microsoft Azure, Oracle, HPE, Salesforce, and Equinix, with Google and IBM Softlayer launching later this year -- by adding similar flexibility.
These network services can now be switched on and off as and where needed by companies, and will be charged via hourly usage.
"You don't know in advance what you're going to want to do ... these days, it's all about being agile," Allcoat explained.
"You can start and stop routers, WAN optimisers, firewalls, Wi-Fi controllers, things for various different sorts of device on demand, anywhere where you've got a device that is capable of running that."
Under this second phase of Dynamic Network Services, 20 to 25 cloud service nodes will be launched between now and June 2018; the x86 Enterprise Network Compute System and x86 UCSe blade technologies will be launched in the second half of this year; the virtual services on demand x86 routing, firewall, Connect Intelligence Riverbed and Infovista, Wi-Fi controller, capability with a customer's own virtual network functions, and Agile Connect products will be launched by the first quarter of 2018; and the x86 technology itself will be launched in mid-2018.
The products will be launched globally, with BT's aim to make such services "purely virtual", Allcoat explained.
Calling SD-WAN the final piece of the puzzle, Allcoat said the third phase of Dynamic Network Services, consisting of an on-demand virtual network, was necessary upon offering both bandwidth and virtual services on demand.
"If you can start things and stop things where and when you want to and you can make the points go fat point, thin point, fast or slow, you need one more thing: A virtual network that starts and stops at the same time as that," he said.
"You start a firewall on demand, you give yourself an on-demand internet connection, you give yourself one or two other services, and you increase the corporate network bandwidth you have at that site ... just for the time you're going to need it."
BT is able to extend its virtual networks not only over its own infrastructure, but also over the top of any other provider, Allcoat said.
"So let's say that you're running a business and for the next three months, you're going to do a project with BHP Billiton and it's at a mining site in the Pilbara, and no one's got any connection there except Telstra. That doesn't matter, because we can extend the software-defined network over Telstra," Allcoat said.
The SD-WAN suite was kicked off with the release of Nokia's Agile Connect, which is available now for early adopters and will be made generally available in September or October; the intelligent WAN (IWAN) integrated with BT Cloud Connect product along with other enhancements for Cisco's Connect IWAN products will be launched between June 2017 and June 2018; and the Agile Connect Wi-Fi/3G/4G "store in a box" will be available just prior to June 2018.
To match its new network offerings, BT is also improving its security services to extend over temporary on-demand virtual networks and services with its Assure Cyber Platform system.
"In the old way, you had this idea of a perimeter, and as long as you secure the perimeter that's fine. The problem is now the internet is so large and so pervasive and connected to absolutely everything ... all of these things can be attacked," he explained.
"So now we've got something we call the Assure Cyber Platform. And it's like every single cool IT buzzword put into one, so it uses big data, predictive analytics, it runs out of the cloud, and so on. What it's doing is we're going through a bunch of data about the way the data is flowing over the internet ... we're using this to work out what do these flows mean."
BT's Assure Cyber Platform makes use of both a computerised element, which uses learning algorithms to sort through the data and learn from it, in addition to a human element in order to combine creative attention to detail with the "relentless efficiency" of computers.
"At least for now, you can't replace people," Allcoat argued.
"People have an uncanny knack to spot odd things ... so we have a load of visualisation software that we put on the front of the data lake, and it allows human operators to literally visualise on big screens what this thing is."
Ongoing development across this cybersecurity platform is occurring partly out of BT's R&D arm in Australia, while "very large financial institutions" are already using the system across the country.
Globally, BT is also providing the new security system to governments and intelligence-gathering organisations.
Overall, Allcoat said BT's new networking and security solutions will reduce businesses' decision-and-deploy cycle for network services from 150 days down to 150 seconds.
"This is a real leap forward, because if we only ever find the right answer twice a year, clearly that means we're running at something that is not the most efficient answer almost all of the time," Allcoat told ZDNet.
"While this isn't going to deliver perfection, if you do that twice a minute rather than twice a year, you're obviously in the right place or a better place much more frequently and for a much longer time than you ever were before. So that's why it's genuinely better.
"It's just a more efficient way of using the things we have anyway."
Updated on March 23: BT has since advised that its bandwidth on demand and network virtualisation on demand products are yet to be launched globally.