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Leading Lights 2017 Finalists: Most Innovative NFV Product Strategy (Vendor)

Craig Matsumoto

The NFV Product Strategy category was among the most popular in this year's Leading Lights, judging from the number of entries. There's no shortage of vendors piling into the space, most of them with virtualized network functions (VNFs).

For this year's award, we focused on companies that showed an early grasp of the scope of NFV. Big-picture thinking counted.

The winner will be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner on Monday, May 15, at Brazos Hall in Austin, Texas. On the following day, the Big Communications Event opens its doors for two days of learning, networking and fun.

To find out which companies were shortlisted across all of this year's Leading Lights categories, please check out this story. (See Leading Lights 2017: The Finalists.)

You're invited to attend Light Reading's Big Communications Event -- the ONE event that delivers context and clarity to the software-driven future. There's still time to register and communications service providers get in free.

Here's who impressed us.

ADVA: Ensemble SmartWAN
Launched in December, Ensemble SmartWAN uses the mature Ensemble platform to deliver the snazzy new buzzword of SD-WAN. The platform's age is part of what makes SmartWAN stand out. ADVA Optical Networking (Frankfurt: ADV) considers SD-WAN to be one application among many, potentially, to be delivered on a virtualized network.

Unlike other SD-WANs, Ensemble SmartWAN is not an appliance. It's an NFV platform for managing SD-WAN combined with other services. As such, it supports other vendors' SD-WAN technologies, starting with Silver Peak and Versa. This is the direction SD-WAN should be headed in.

Huawei: Network Function Cloudification (NFC)
Huawei Marine Networks Co. Ltd. describes NFC as being born of an effort to reconstruct its network software architecture for the cloud -- something close to a clean-slate approach. Huawei also offers itself up as the primary integrator for an NFV deployment. That can be key, as NFV is still a difficult package to assemble.

The approach seems to be working, as Huawei claims NFC has been deployed in more than 30 commercial cloud networks that serve 50 million subscribers in aggregate. The numbers are big because NFC began deploying three years ago, but what counts for this award is the progress made during the past year. That includes a host of applications, including CloudAIR and CloudRAN, and a focus on interoperability, with Huawei's NFV Open Lab verifying projects from more than 20 "mainstream" (Huawei's word) vendors.

Netcracker: Network-as-a-service (NaaS)
One of many planned services under Netcracker Technology Corp. 's Agile Virtualization Platform and Practice (AVP) umbrella, NaaS is a way for operators to start selling virtualized services without having to virtualize the equipment they have installed. It's the foundation of Netcracker's NFV strategy, with elements including the company's Hybrid Operations Management (HOM) for lifecycle management of virtualized functions and end-to-end visibility across physical and virtual networks.

The package is put together with an understanding of the back-end systems a carrier works with -- not surprising, considering that market is Netcracker's specialty. NaaS customers include Telefonica Global Solutions (TGSol) and Deutsche Telekom (DT).

Bonus feature: Netcracker's consulting arm can include a cost analysis of NaaS, letting carriers see if a deployment is likely to lower costs or produce new revenues.

Versa Networks
Versa Networks 's name has been increasingly associated with SD-WAN, but the startup has its eye on the bigger NFV picture, with a technology portfolio that also dips into security and includes a virtual CPE. Founded by brothers Kumar and Apurva Mehta, whose names might sound familiar from their Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) days, the company zoomed in on service chaining from the beginning, showing an awareness of the potential flexibility NFV can offer.

— Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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