Virtual Service Provider Networks

The service provider network is the essential pipe that delivers connectivity to enable innovation. It has the potential to limit or expand the innovation that people and applications riding on it can deliver. With the advent of new apps, games, and devices, the demands on the network keep changing almost every day. The traditional service provider network that took months (if not years) to evolve is not able to keep up with the demand.

At the same time, ViaSat is launching next-generation satellites that have capabilities to cover the whole planet with high speed internet. In order to be more agile, we at ViaSat embarked on a journey to create the next generation network that supports a worldwide and ever-changing footprint.

Existing technology

We started by assessing our existing technology to see if it would fit the bill. Our main goals were:

  • Stability: We are building a service provider network; it’s an essential utility.
  • Hybrid: The world the network lives in now is not new. There is an existing internet and network out there and we have to co-exist for a long time.
  • Agile: We need to have the ability to change stuff at an enterprise speed in a service provider world.

There were so many options but nothing that fit our needs perfectly. We ended up with a solution that is truly hybrid.

Traditional Datacenter

The picture above shows a traditional data center design. The content providers are inside the network. The consumers need to reach into the data center, get to the content and retrieve it.

The number of endpoints that serve content are in 1000s.

Service Provider Datacenter

The needs of a service provider (SP) data center are very different. The SP datacenter is supposed to be transit; in fact if it is done correctly, it should be invisible to the end user. They shouldn’t even know of the existence of most of the apps and services in the data center.

The demands on this type of data center are drastically different:

  • It needs to handle millions of endpoints with 100s of millions of sessions
  • Security is per session and not per tenant
  • The network functions are virtual and/or physical depending on the function and vendor
  • The network needs to co-exist with an actual running service provider network made up of metal gear
  • An IP packet traverses several different network functions and their associated service points before it leaves the data center
  • Some of the applications, especially the MAC layer, are jitter sensitive and we need near real time performance
  • The network interfaces of different functions need routing or switching at both Layer 2 and Layer 3
  • Traceability and monitoring are big challenges; there is a lot of east-west traffic between virtual entities


The Solution

We came up with a very unique solution to this problem.

Virtual Service Provider Network

We took most of the network functions and virtualized them. The functions that could not be virtualized, we created proxies for. Once the network functions were virtualized, we created well-defined microservices out of them.

Then, we migrated some of the traditional control and management plane services into the public cloud. The data plane is in ViaSat’s own private cloud as it needs to interact with existing networks and carry a lot of transit traffic.

This infrastructure can be used by other service providers in the future. It is purpose-built for a service provider network, providing the stability and agility we needed.

We also created a whole set of new orchestration, dynamic service chaining, firewall, and IaaS infrastructure.  These will be discussed in future articles.

If you want to work with us to build this exciting new service provider cloud, please check our open positions!

Leave a Reply