Telstra plans 'context-aware' Next IP network

 

Identity management, application priority on the cards.

Telstra will allow customers to prioritise bandwidth for specific applications and introduce new identity management capabilities on network hardware as it improves its Next IP core network.

The telco has spent the past three years planning new features for its MPLS network, which underwent its last core upgrade in 2009 at a cost of $1.5 billion.

Its latest improvements involve new routers and other hardware from Alcatel-Lucent, Juniper and Cisco to provide customers with greater visibility of their wide area networks.

The first fruits of the network upgrade were unveiled by the telco this week, with the launch of 'Application Assured Networking'.

Based on Alcatel-Lucent's increasing pitch toward smarter routers, the Next IP product allows customers to view which applications are dominating bandwidth on their WAN connection on a location-by-location basis.

Initially, the new, managed service will allow Telstra to consult with customers and determine which applications may need acceleration or a different configuration on the network.

Later upgrades of Application Assured Networking will allow Telstra customers to specifically control which applications can be prioritised and which can be speed-limited.

"Application visibility is a pretty powerful tool within its own rights," Telstra IP data and security portfolio director, John Ieraci, told iTnews.

"We're seeing a lot of enterprise customers [focused on] understanding their peak workloads."

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The new bandwidth management capability has already been taken up two companies and will be rolled out to a further seven clients in coming months, including one of Australia's largest organisations.

One client, building products supplier Peer Industries, used the capability to improve the 'mean opinion score' - or perceived quality - of its voice service.

Telstra will offer Application Assured Networking in addition to existing Next IP services and as a differentiator from typical WAN optimisation products, which focus on "chatty", non real-time applications.

In a second phase later this year, Telstra will introduce an on-demand web portal to allow CIOs and network engineers to prioritise those applications.

Backed by Juniper-based policy management hardware, it would allow clients to track any number of 200 identified consumer and enterprise applications traversing the network and prioritise their bandwidth on an as-needed basis.

"Customers that have their own purpose-built applications will be able to tag those, provide a data feed and we can come back to those with a signature," Ieraci said.

The capability was aimed at solving network saturation problems, particularly with an increase in the use of bandwidth-hungry video solutions and consumer applications on an otherwise-busy connection.

"The bandwidth isn't always the answer to applications," Ieraci said.

"Enterprise CIOs are able to identify what applications using what capacity and determine whether capacity or bandwidth is a restraint on application performance."

Future roadmap

Ieraci would not disclose the amount spent on Next IP upgrades but said the cost of context-aware capabilities was a "barrier to entry for most enterprise corporates and even carriers".

The two phases are likely to lead into the implementation of Cisco's Identity Services Engine into the Next IP network by late next year, providing the next evolution in what Ieraci dubbed a "context-aware" network.

"We'd like to build enough intelligence into the Next IP network whereby it will make policy decisions based on application, location, access type, device as well as user identity," he said.

"If there's an enterprise employee accessing the network to access some certain information from another secure access point - a Wi-Fi location - the network will be able to detect where the request is being made, go down to the person and make a security policy decision on that basis."

Though typically deployed on routers within client's server rooms, Ieraci said Telstra hoped to bake the capability into its core network and provide it on top of existing IP features.

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