Networks are evolving greatly thanks to the contribution of two recent technologies: Software-Defined Network and Network Functions Virtualization.
When we question him on the telecoms networks of tomorrow, Paul Chaignon, a doctoral student at Orange, prefers to remain cautious… “I wouldn’t go as far as to say that we are going through a revolution of the network, because the changes will take place over long periods of time. However, the new services that are emerging will be very different, more agile, easier to control in real time, and they will adapt more to users.”
In this day of cloud computing, of the Internet of Things and of Big data, networks are evolving greatly thanks to the contribution of two recent technologies: SDN (Software-Defined Network) and NFV (Network Functions Virtualization).
On the one side we have SDN, which decouples network control and data forwarding functions, enabling IT teams to manage network performance and security better thanks to its programmable functions and the simplification of network infrastructures. And on the other side is NFV, consisting of migrating certain network functions from a physical infrastructure to a software infrastructure, which makes it possible to do without the former so as to deploy and update new functionalities whilst avoiding the complexity and costs associated with the installation of new machines.
More agile networks
These two complementary technologies aim to make networks more agile, flexible, and scalable, in order for them to better meet the changing requirements of businesses. “These solutions are for people who manage networks, both within the companies where network equipment is installed, and for network operators, such as Orange, explains Paul Chaignon. We hope that this will enable them to be more autonomous, to benefit from greater flexibility, and thus be able to deploy new services and innovations faster.”
For a doctoral student such as Paul Chaignon, to work on the evolution of networks at Orange is to be at the heart of a major transformation. In fact he says he is very satisfied with his experience, of which he shares the daily life with us, which he says is very varied.
“No two days are ever the same! he says. One day we’ll be reading academic publications to find out about the work being done by competing researchers, what the emerging tendencies are, and how Orange is positioned compared to these stakeholders. Another day we’ll be working on prototype roll-out and assessment: the emergence of an idea, its implementation, the analysis of its added value, its effective operation. Or again we may be writing our own academic papers, attending expert conferences, sharing our work to attempt to popularise our research topics…”
The Salon de la Recherche, a special occasion
Doctoral students like Paul Chaignon work at Orange with teams of researchers, engineers, experts…, on a wide range of topics. “What is highly motivating for us is to get opinions and feedback on our work. The Salon de la Recherche, for example, is a special occasion to meet people who are faced with the problems that we are attempting to address, who can potentially provide us with solutions or whom our approach can help.”
He attended the 2017 Salon de la Recherche with Oko, a programmable switch software developed within the <I/O> Lab, a shared Orange and Inria (the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation) research laboratory. “We looked at switch software, network equipment that enables the transfer of data packets to virtual machines, and attempted to extend its functionality during implementation, without interrupting it, he explains. The aim was to check that our approach increases network performances compared to competing approaches.”
Oko represents a good example of the work, carried out over the past two years at Orange by Paul Chaignon, to serve the networks of tomorrow.