Evaluating Cloud-network Architecture to Accelerate the Digital Economy

CAICT has developed an evaluation index that can guide the construction of cloud-network infrastructure.

By Tian Hui, Director, Internet Center, Technology and Standards Research Institute, CAICT
Huawei Tech Issue 93
Tian Hui

It's estimated that the added value of China's digital economy will account for more than 10% of its GDP by 2025. To date, the transition to the digital economy has presented a significant challenge for ICT professionals, but now the it's widely accepted in the industry that cloud-network infrastructure is a cornerstone of this transition.

However, the quality and profitability of cloud-network infrastructure need to be quickly improved.


Five ICT industry trends in the digital economy

Based on its insights into the ICT industry, China Academy of Information and Communications Technology (CAICT) identified five industry trends in 2020 that will occur in the digital economy over the next 5 to 10 years.

Trend 1: Innovations in algorithms and improvements in computing power. Intelligent cloud computing applications are growing both vertically and horizontally. The enhancement of AI's sensing capabilities is driving the digitalization of all industries and enabling end-to-end improvements in computing power.

Trend 2: New infrastructure that will enable the digitalization of all industries. With the development of digital infrastructure that integrates cloud, networks, the edge, and devices, cloud-network synergy based on cloud and edge computing will advance rapidly.

Trend 3: Network security transformation. As vertical industries go digital, cloud-network, computing-network, and chain-network architectures are integrating. The original network security boundaries are being blurred and broken.

Trend 4: The continued development of 5G applications. With the large-scale development and application of 5GtoB and 5GtoC networks, the number of virtual private 5G networks will exceed 8,000.

Trend 5: Integrated innovation for both industry digitalization and the digital economy. It is estimated that by 2025, the added value of China's digital economy will account for more than 10% of its GDP, greatly boosting integrated innovation for both industry digitalization and the digital economy.

Challenges and solutions for cloud-network infrastructure 

In the ICT industry, networks connect different industry applications and computing power for trillions of connections, and the cloud carries distributed computing power and data centers for tens of millions of connections. Therefore, cloud and network infrastructure will play an increasingly important role in the digital economy of the future.

The deployment of cloud-network infrastructure faces the following challenges:

It is difficult for network users to access the cloud. In cross-network, cloud, region, and autonomous domain scenarios, the construction of site-to-cloud private lines for users will be complex.

Network as a Service (NaaS) is under-developed. Cloud networks need to be autonomously integrated with the IT systems of various industries. This raises high requirements for network programming and the openness of network controllers’ southbound and northbound interfaces.

Online services cannot provide deterministic SLAs. Enterprise cloud access requires both low latency and deterministic network performance. Traditional best-effort IP network services cannot meet the rigorous requirements for reliability, controllability, and performance.

Networks lack agility and horizontal scalability. The exponential growth of traffic and uncertainty in new types of services will make network flexibility and agility difficult to achieve.

Network security risks are high. In the past, network security boundaries were clear. However, as the boundaries between cloud, networks, the edge, and devices become blurred, network security requirements have evolved.

Cloud networks must have the following basic capabilities to address the challenges:

First, computing power transmission: Awareness of cloud-network integrated computing power and on-demand access need to be achieved through maximized network coverage.

Second, quality assurance: Deterministic service latency, on-demand bandwidth scheduling, and high service availability need to be realized through exclusive connectivity and multiple assurances.

Third, long-term investment protection: Cloud-network architecture must remain relatively stable for 5 to 10 years and be able to flexibly and efficiently scale out as services develop.

Fourth, security and trustworthiness: Strong abilities to avoid network security risks are required.

Fifth, ecosystem monetization: Network innovation must not just be about technological advancement, it must also create higher business value.


Evaluation index for IPv6+ cloud-network architecture

Based on these five trends, challenges, and the required cloud-network capabilities, CAICT believes that the IPv6+ system deployed at scale and an all-optical base are currently the best foundation for cloud networks. In addition, a well-defined quality index system is required to support the digital transformation of all industries.

With IPv6+ and capabilities such as network programming, network slicing, and in-situ flow information telemetry (iFIT), intelligent cloud networks based on IPv6+ can support one network and multiple clouds, one network with multiple planes, one-click cloud-based network scheduling, intelligent O&M, and multi-dimensional security. Building IPv6+-capable cloud backbone networks and new intelligent MANs are now a core strategic move for carriers. It has also become a necessity for industry sectors like government, finance, and cloud data center users to adopt IPv6+ in their infrastructure to implement cloud-network synergy.

In 2017, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) and Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) released the Action Plan for Promoting the Large-Scale Deployment of Internet Protocol Version 6 (IPv6). In 2019, the China Expert Committee for Promoting Large-Scale IPv6 Deployment established the IPv6+ Technology Innovation Working Group. These policies have greatly accelerated the scale application and reconstruction of IPv6+ infrastructure.

To develop a quality index system, CAICT began working with carriers, Huawei, cloud vendors, and cloud-network customers in October 2019 on technical surveys and application pilots explore 5G and cloud service experience and bearer network architectures. In December 2020, CAICT released the consultation draft for cloud service experience indexes with the aim of gaining industry consensus on cloud application KQIs and cloud-network infrastructure KPIs. In February 2021, CAICT released the cloud-network architecture evaluation index based on the cloud-network technical white papers of carriers, main cloud service test data, and user practices. The index is aimed at driving high-quality, efficient, and profitable construction of cloud-network infrastructure across the industry.

The cloud-network architecture evaluation index includes five level-1 indicators: multi-cloud full connectivity, deterministic experience, elastic scalability, security assurance, and open service.

Multi-cloud full connectivity includes four lower-level indicators: IPv6+ protocol compliance, flexible multi-media access, one connection to multiple clouds, and flexible application-level scheduling. The aim is multi-cloud full connection at the physical, logical, and application layers.

Deterministic experience includes three lower-level indicators: network slicing, high service reliability, and stable, low latency. The aim is quality user experience of cloud-network applications through exclusive connection, latency, and availability.

Elastic scalability includes three lower-level indicators: distributed cloud bearer, end-to-end ultra-broadband, and all-optical base. High scalability of cloud networks is implemented through topologies, platforms, and basic optical resources.

Security assurance includes four lower-level indicators: full situational awareness, security as a service, cloud-network security association, and intrinsic security. Network security can be ensured through network risk awareness, mitigation, and solution implementation.

Open service includes three lower-level indicators: open programmability, automated provisioning, and AI-based fault location and fast recovery. Service openness can be achieved through network integration and high cohesion.

CAICT hopes that carriers and enterprise users, operators, and integrators of cloud services will use and improve the evaluation index. Enterprise users can add more cloud application demands and use the index to score networks during procurement and acceptance. Carriers can use the indicators to measure networks during cloud-network planning, annual rolling planning, and post-construction assessment. Cloud service providers can refine the indicator system through cloud application experience. Cloud service integrators can raise requirements for the index through one-stop services.

The release of the architecture evaluation index is just the beginning. CAICT will continue to refine the methods for measuring and calculating the indicators so that the cloud-network architecture index is measurable, closed-loop, and automated. Each indicator will have clear measurement targets, weights, and scoring rules to facilitate a cumulative total index score of the entire network. CAICT will also map and evaluate indicators for major cloud-network architectures. Currently, 17 indicators in 5 dimensions have been defined, and some live-network pilots have been carried out. CAICT will continue to score more networks to make the index a de facto industry standard.

The architecture has paved the way for the coming cloud-network era. CAICT believes that the application of the evaluation index system for cloud-network architecture will play a guiding role in contracts and network construction for future cloud-network infrastructure, thereby accelerating the digital transformation of industries.