One of the challenges of blockchain for many organizations is figuring out just what it’s good for beyond making Bitcoin happen. For operators, one potential blockchain application could be auditing network automation.
So says Ciena, who is looking at blockchain as a potential technology to ensure trust and security in network automation technology as part of its overall ‘adaptive networking’ vision that involves a fully automated AI-powered network that will run dynamically by itself, with software providing the control and telemetry.
According to Anup Changaroth, senior director for APAC CTO Office & Strategic Business Development at Ciena, all of these elements have to exist in an environment of trust.
“If you think about it, service providers run their networks based on trust. We talk about security, but the software and hardware elements have to work together based on trust,” Changaroth told Disruptive.Asia. “Blockchain as a technology has the potential to revolutionize any situation where trust is needed and involved. Anywhere where there is an audit trail, whether internally or between service provider and customer, trust has to be there.”
For example, he explained, blockchain could provide an immutable, indisputable and trackable audit trail for every service you provision. Currently this is done with flat text files, and while these can be encrypted, they can also be unencrypted, at which point someone with malicious intent could change the file and the audit trail undetected. Blockchain theoretically makes escaping detection impossible.
In the kind of adaptive networking environment Ciena has in mind, networks can change on demand and in real time. With blockchain, all of those adaptive changes could be tracked, monitored measured, priced and billed, Changaroth says. “Pick any aspect of a telco service, and you can see how blockchain could secure that service. It can add enormous value.”
That said, Changaroth cautions that there are some operational challenges and costs associated with blockchain – for example, there’s the question of scalability, and what happens when you throw an AI engine into the mix.
He also emphasizes that Ciena doesn’t currently support blockchain in any of its current products, but it is looking at ways to do so.
Another question is how blockchain as a service provisioning auditor would work in an inter-operator connectivity scenario, though Changaroth says this isn’t likely to be a problem. “Blockchain itself is peer to peer [by design]. There is no central agency, so no one needs to authenticate this. It’s quite trivial, really.”
Changaroth added that while the telecoms sector (like so many others) is still trying to get its collective head around blockchain, many operators definitely see its disruptive potential and are actively looking for ways to use it where it would make sense.
“We are working with the TM Forum to look at service providers and how they can encapsulate services, and advertise them to their partners and enterprise customers – for instance, request resources and services such as AWS,” he said. “In the future we envision this happening through a high capacity pipe, which has a digital control, so you can get AWS for five hours via a digital transaction.”
And the future, he adds, isn’t that far away. “This could happen within three years. It is not that far-fetched – in fact we have done this as a Catalyst with the TM Forum.”