Light Reading
CenturyLink and Masergy are both interested in Distributed NFV but their approaches are somewhat different.

Two Faces of Distributed NFV

Carol Wilson
3/13/2014
100%
0%

In the era of virtualization, greater distinctions may develop between carriers and the services they offer as network operators adopt unique approaches to common service delivery concepts.

One example of how different priorities can influence deployments can already be seen in the instance of Distributed NFV, one of the proofs of concept being considered by the ETSI NFV Industry Specifications Group (ISG).

The idea of Distributed NFV was first publicized by RAD Data Communications Ltd. -- not that surprising as it manufactures customer premises gear. But as a PoC, it is a multi-vendor effort including Cyan Inc. , which is providing orchestration, as well as security vendors Fortinet Inc. and Certes, whose functions are being virtualized. (See ESDN: RAD Rolls Out Distributed NFV Strategy and MWC Offers Peek at NFV Projects.)

So what is Distributed NFV? In this iteration of functions virtualization, some functionality is located at the customer premises on an X86 blade that, for the PoC purposes, is part of RAD's box, which serves as the network interface device. Having some programmability at the customer premises, rather than locating all the intelligence within the network's core, creates different service possibilities.

The PoC sponsor, CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), looks at Distributed NFV as an opportunity to advance its managed services strategy, says James Feger, VP of Network Strategy and Development.

"One of our challenges as a company is getting the functionality into the customer suite or customer premises with requests for services and features rapidly changing," he tells Light Reading. By creating a virtual gateway or virtual network interface device (NID) at the customer premises, there is the potential of having a remote resource that becomes part of the virtual service environment and can be programmed with different settings as services change or evolve.

"So things we might want to host in our facilities and data centers and [central offices], like firewall services, could be augmented by having some of that at the premises," he notes. "It's just a matter of which locale makes more sense for that specific function. If you look at something like application awareness, for instance, it could make more sense to have that inside the customer premises versus having it northbound in the network."

From CenturyLink's perspective, the distributed NFV option complements a broader virtualization strategy -- but the jury is still out on what functions best at the edge versus the core, and thus the need for the PoC.

Masergy moving ahead
By contrast, Masergy Communications Inc. , a competitive service provider also focused on managed services, sees Distributed NFV as something it can deploy now, for the express purpose of eliminating most of the hassles it currently faces with maintaining CPE.

"The way we look at something like NFV is that our customers don't really care what the technology is," say Tim Naramore, CTO. "They are pushing us to eliminate all the local premises functions for them, as quickly as possible."

Masergy wants to use Distributed NFV to eliminate multiple discrete boxes at the customer premises, and create cloud-based control of most functions, to eliminate the need to maintain that gear and keep it certified and up-to-date for compliance purposes, Naramore says.

"Having intelligence in a device on the premises and the ability to load VMs [virtual machines] on that and run things opens up a new breed of things for customers," Naramore says. "And they are pushing us to do this."

Both Naramore and Feger say there are things that can't be virtualized and distributed for multiple reasons.

It can also be argued that distributing functions using a vendor box such as RAD's falls short of the virtualization goal of using off-the-shelf hardware in a more 'open' approach, but as Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Caroline Chappell notes, there are practical reasons for considering both options.

"It makes sense to use what you've got instead of putting something completely new in place," she says. "And the actual functions are running on an X86 blade on [RAD's] box. Presumably, you can add anything that can run on an X86."

Having a common orchestration layer may satisfy enough of the "open" requirements that, if pushed further, become impractical.

"We've seen some rowing back in terms of how 'open' all this environment can be," she notes. "There is an argument that the openness is coming from that fact you are using a common service orchestration layer."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

(10)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
reliaz074
50%
50%
reliaz074,
User Rank: Light Beer
3/17/2014 | 10:58:19 AM
things that can't be virtualized and distributed
An explanation of which functions must remain at the customer edge is found in RAD's D-NFV White Paper, which can be downloaded at http://www.rad.com/21/Distributed-Network-Functions-Virtualization-White-Paper/32548/
Dredgie
50%
50%
Dredgie,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/14/2014 | 8:05:44 PM
Re: Love is in the air
>> maybe the nuance, here is the fact that the CPE is X86 – though I think even that was assumed in the long-circulating NFV 'use cases' document that includes CPE (i.e. STB & resi-gateway) and edge devices with separated forwarding / control planes.
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/14/2014 | 2:21:40 PM
Re: Love is in the air
They didn't spell them out for the most part but since virtualization of network resources is keyed toward centralized software-based control of network gear, Distributed NFV actually represents the break from the norm, to push some things to the edge (security, for one) that belong there. Most functions are expected to be more centralized and not distributed. 

 
t.bogataj
50%
50%
t.bogataj,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/14/2014 | 4:09:51 AM
Love is in the air
Carol,

Did Naramore and Feger name the "things that can't be virtualized and distributed", and why not?

T.
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/13/2014 | 9:29:36 PM
Re: Two Faces of Distributed NFV
Mitch,

I think that is what CenturyLink is hoping to learn from the PoC - what is the reality and what are the real benefits. They are taking a very pragmatic approach.
DHagar
50%
50%
DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/13/2014 | 6:34:35 PM
Two Faces of Distributed NFV
@FakeMitchWagner, key points, Mitch.  Don't you think the answer to that will be in finding the right solutions that will deliver a viable user experience that makes the managed services a seamless part of operations?    Easy to say but tough to do.  I think if the carriers can develop the right solutions they will have a winning proposition that will be sustainable.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/13/2014 | 6:04:47 PM
Re: Two Faces of Distributed NFV
Anything that increases flexiblity while reducing the need to locate equipment on customer premises is potentially a winner. The question is whether the reality will live up to the potential. 
DHagar
50%
50%
DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/13/2014 | 5:50:00 PM
Two Faces of Distributed NFV
@Carol,  sounds like a very smart move!
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/13/2014 | 5:44:30 PM
Re: Two Faces of Distributed NFV
Both of the service providers I spoke with saw this as an enhancement to what they can deliver through managed services, so network as a service is probably an apt description. 

 
DHagar
50%
50%
DHagar,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/13/2014 | 4:58:00 PM
Two Faces of Distributed NFV
@Carol, Fascinating!  If I understand correctly, this is opening the door to a NaS (Network-as-Service) capability, which complements other shifts and movement towards virtualization.

That makes sense that some will provide the connectivity (networks and open or standardized systems) and others will focus on services. 

This again points to the user focus and the value technology delivers, more so than the technology itself.

 
Flash Poll
From The Founder
It's clear to me that the communications industry is divided into two types of people, and only one is living in the real world.
LRTV Interviews
Liberty Global Sees Business Goldmine

12|18|14   |     |   (0) comments


Steen Sorensen, VP of business services for Liberty Global, explains where the giant international MSO sees growth potential.
LRTV Documentaries
EE: The Road to 5G

12|16|14   |   16:02   |   (1) comment


Andy Sutton, the principal network architect at UK mobile operator EE, explains how his company is using Wembley stadium as a wireless test bed and how that's helping EE to plan the evolution to 5G.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Highlights of Huawei's NFV Open Cloud Forum 2014

12|16|14   |     |   (0) comments


Huawei hosted its inaugural NFV Open Cloud Forum during the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014 in Düsseldorf, Germany. The Forum brought together technology thought leaders, senior executives and telecom professionals from global carriers, industry associations, as well as other partner companies in the ecosystem, to exchange views on and collectively explore how ...
LRTV Custom TV
Realizing Operators' Digital Vision

12|16|14   |   5:23   |   (0) comments


Leveraging technology is fundamental to digital transformation but understanding customers and serving them really well is at the heart of digital businesses. TM Forum lists the following as the strategic pillars of the digital business: business agility and rapid innovation, operational agility and effectiveness, IT and data centricity, plus customer centricity. ...
LRTV Documentaries
US Cellular Injects Analytics Into LTE

12|16|14   |   2:57   |   (1) comment


US Cellular's Mario Vela explains how the operator uses analytics for network planning and what comes next as the carrier looks to eke more value out of its metrics.
LRTV Interviews
How Cox Biz Plans to Keep Growing

12|15|14   |     |   (1) comment


Steve Rowley, SVP of Cox Business, details how the third-biggest US MSO intends to boost its revenues to $2 billion and beyond over the rest of the decade
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Interview With Bill Zhang, Director of SoftCOM Product Management, Huawei

12|15|14   |   2:50   |   (0) comments


Bill Zhang elaborated on Huawei's open philosophy in NFV solution development and network architecture design at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Event Highlights: Huawei at SDN & OpenFlow World Congress 2014

12|15|14   |   3:43   |   (0) comments


Huawei joined the 2014 SDN & OpenFlow Congress as one of the key sponsors and contributors. At the event, Huawei reinforced the openness and flexibility of its network infrastructure strategies, and provided updates on its SDN and NVF innovations. Through participations at the exhibitions, forums and speeches, Huawei encouraged the industry to "think bigger and ...
LRTV Interviews
How Cable Biz Services Hit $10B Mark

12|12|14   |     |   (1) comment


Cable operators reached $10 billion in annual business services revenues by delving deeper into their vertical markets and expanding beyond the smallest firms.
LRTV Documentaries
Mediacom Aims to Test Connected Tractors

12|11|14   |   05:07   |   (3) comments


Cable business service provider is taking its services to the 'agribusiness' sector in partnership with farm equipment specialist John Deere and is getting involved in Gigabit Cities developments.
LRTV Interviews
TWC Business Looks Beyond $3B

12|10|14   |     |   (0) comments


TWC Business Services chief Phil Meeks explains how his unit has reached $3 billion in annual revenues and what its plans are for next year.
LRTV Documentaries
AT&T's New Security Strategy

12|10|14   |   02:36   |   (1) comment


AT&T's Chief Security Officer Ed Amoroso explains how his company is wrapping virtual security layers around micro network domains.
Upcoming Live Events
February 10, 2015, Atlanta, GA
April 14, 2015, New York City, NY
May 6, 2015, McCormick Convention Center, Chicago, IL
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
Hot Topics
Vodafone to Ride T-Mobile Back Into US
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 12/12/2014
1-Gig: Coming to a Small Town Near You
Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, 12/17/2014
T-Mobile, BlackBerry Flirt With Reuniting
Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, 12/17/2014
Gardner's Departure a Cautionary Tale
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 12/12/2014
Cisco Makes Big Analytics Push
Mitch Wagner, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading, 12/11/2014
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Upcoming Webinars
Webinar Archive