Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Unveils Network on Demand Service

The company is looking to bring the same flexibility and cost savings to network infrastructures that already are available for compute and storage.

network on demand

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is rolling out a network-as-a-service offering that is designed to drive down costs and increase flexibility by enabling businesses to pay only for the networking resources that they use.

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise's (ALE) Network on Demand service will be run through the company's broad lineup of channel partners and resellers, and will encompass such technologies as its Intelligent Fabric, Unified Access and Network Analytics offerings. The vendor introduced the new networking offering at the recent CeBit show in Germany.

Network on Demand comes at a time when most aspects of the IT infrastructure—including compute and storage—can be accessed as services via the Internet. As with most aspects of the data center, the network is trailing behind other parts of the infrastructure when it comes to such trends as virtualization and as-a-service offerings, though a broad array of networking technology vendors are moving in the on-demand direction.

For ALE executives, the move to network-as-a-service makes sense. They noted a recent IDC report in which the analysts said that by 2020, 80 percent of all IT infrastructure will be delivered on a "pay-as-you-go basis."

"Looking at the increased acceptance of IT on demand via cloud application services, we wanted to be the first to offer our customers the benefits of a new set of network services," Stephane Robineau, executive vice president and general manager of ALE's Networking Business division, said in a statement. "Designed with our partners, Network on Demand changes the game by making it possible to offer Opex [operating expense] consumption-based, unified, on-demand LAN and WiFi managed services."

The networking space is undergoing dramatic change brought on by software-defined networking (SDN), network-functions virtualization (NFV) and other network virtualization technologies that are designed to make networks more agile, dynamic, programmable, scalable and affordable. The network-as-a-service approach is part of this effort to make the network infrastructure more responsive to rapidly changing demands at a time when the business landscape is being impacted by such trends as greater mobility, big data analytics, the Internet of things (IoT), bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and the cloud.

In a traditional networking environment, businesses are forced to overprovision the number of ports, switches and routers in order to cover spikes in demand. In addition, updating software and hardware at times can mean bringing in new hardware, which leads to extra costs and can lead to delays in updates. Businesses also have to keep IT staff on hand that can support all the new networking hardware and software coming into the environment.

ALE's Network on Demand will change all that, according to company officials. The offering is a secure managed service delivered via LAN and WiFi by ALE's business partners. It offers automated and ready-to-go cloud managed tools that channel partners and resellers can use to operate and support the services and bundle usage-based applications with networking infrastructure. Customers pay for the infrastructure that they use depending on the connections they utilize on a daily basis. They can scale up or down depending on what their needs of the day are, and are only charged for the daily use of the network devices, officials said.

That means that operations like schools (that have limited use of their networks on weekends or during holidays), hotels (which can be charged for network connectivity in their rooms based on occupancy) and stadiums (which normally are used during only parts of the week) would only be charged for the network services that they use, and not while they're sitting idle.

ALE's Intelligent Fabric provides a high-capacity, automated and self-healing network infrastructure, while the Unified Access technology offers wired and wireless access on a unified network infrastructure. The Network Analytics technology collects and analyzes data from the network to give network operators greater insight into the infrastructure.

ALE had been the enterprise networking and communications business of Alcatel-Lucent, but it was sold in 2014 to Chinese investment company China Huaxin as part of the parent company's larger Shift Plan to slash costs. Alcatel-Lucent a year later was sold to Nokia for $16.6 billion to create a larger networking that can better compete with the likes of Huawei Technologies, Ericsson and Cisco Systems.