Solving NBN congestion with Juniper's network automation bots

Juniper Networks' OpenLab and network automation technology were leveraged by Telstra in developing its own CVC bots to help track NBN network congestion, Juniper APAC head Ralph Candiloro has told ZDNet.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

With National Broadband Network (NBN) congestion a major issue in Australia, Juniper reckons its line of network automation bots can help solve the problem.

According to APAC head Ralph Candiloro, Juniper Networks' network automation bot technology -- unveiled in December and designed to automate network management and improve analytics -- has seen its most tangible usage in Telstra-developed bots that calculate NBN connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) usage.

"In Australia specifically, the hot topic is around the points of interconnect, and the CVC charges and all the rest of it ... you don't overbook or under-book the network," he told ZDNet during Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last month.

"In Australia recently, there's been a lot of criticisms around bandwidth availability and service times, and the whole thing that we've done with a number of our accounts is they've automated some tools to be able to actually dynamically monitor without human intervention the peak loads.

"[Service providers will] be able to better utilise the existing CVCs as well as be able to dial up and dial down the ability to bring on more CVC when they need it in peak loads."

Using this technology as a basis, Telstra then developed its own CVC bots in Juniper's OpenLab, Candiloro said.

"One of the things that they [Telstra] developed themselves in an OpenLab hackathon was their CVC bots. And they then hardened the product straight after," he said.

"They had six work streams and they hardened four of them as the CVC bot, and you've probably heard Mike [Wright, Telstra MD of Networks] I think it was about four months ago he referenced -- it was all the criticism around RSPs not giving the downstream customers the bandwidth they were looking for -- he referenced the bots.

"We don't advertise that they're the ones they've put on their BNGs [broadband network gateways], because the BNGs are the points of interconnect into NBN, so the CVCs terminate on our devices so the bots that they've built after the OpenLab with the tools we gave them actually manage the CVC traffic."

Wright had in November revealed that Telstra is now handling the allocation and purchase of its CVC capacity on a weekly basis using automated bandwidth monitoring, following criticism about congestion across all retailers from NBN and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

"Every week we're measuring the traffic on the CVC interfaces, we're applying our own statistical analysis to it, and working out what we need to buy for the next week. That goes into the network that week, and next week we do the same process," Wright said at the time.

"What we have done is by putting robots inside the gateways, and some physical robots, we can now measure the experience end-to-end.

"We already know from the test we've done, that we are delivering at least or better than the standards that the ACCC have defined for customer experience."

Telstra has also stated that Juniper is behind the Telstra Programmable Network (TPN), with Candiloro saying it is rare for a telco to advertise their technology partners.

"The Telstra Programmable Network ... we are the service orchestrator, so it's our entire cloud platform, as well as the universal CPE device," he explained, adding that Juniper also supports multiple virtual network functions (VNFs) including switching, security, routing, and support for VeloCloud thanks to its own "genuinely open platform".

"We've done that for quite a number of carriers in North America and Europe, and they've launched it under other brands ... it's very rare for Telstra to declare who is in the network and who's helping them where. A lot of carriers never talk about who's behind the screen."

Read also: Top 5G announcements from MWC 2018

During MWC last month, Juniper also unveiled its network-slicing bot, the latest addition to its automation bots.

"The bot basically automates the provisioning of [the network], and so for us that's -- we have something called node slicing that you can do on your devices; you can actually even virtualise a physical device to slice it into different applications and then across the network ensure you have the right capabilities provisioned," Juniper told ZDNet in Barcelona.

"The other thing that we've done with the slicing bot, though, is we've done it in natural language processing, so rather than having to have a PhD in how you would configure the network, you would basically say 'I need an IoT slice that is provisioned for a million end points that requires this type of SLA' ... and then the bot does the work and configures the network.

"For some of these carriers that have hundreds of thousands of nodes in their network that could be a major manual task if you didn't have the bot to do that."

Candiloro said there has been a lot of interest expressed in the network-slicing bots, with several customers already talking to the company about using it. The first wave of these bots will be launched in April with three to four "obvious" customers.

Telstra is a slicing customer, he said.

In terms of 5G, Candiloro said the challenge for telcos is that it won't be commercialised in the same way 3G or 4G were, with a new handset that's consumer driven. Instead, it will be driven by latency-dependent Internet of Things (IoT) and industrial wide-area network applications.

5G is therefore about IoT vendors and partners, he said.

"It's really about that ecosystem and how open we are, so for us with the journey we started with SDN and NFV is coming full circle, and it's rewarding us now because the fact that we decided to ... open up means that we've probably got the most flexible solution," he said.

"We're doing that [debate] with around six or seven carriers in Australia, certainly in Japan, certainly there's not one market we're not doing that with, but the discussion starts with the assets we've already got in those carriers, and it's about evolving them."

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