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Verizon Adds Cloud-Based VNFs

Carol Wilson

Verizon this week rolled out its cloud-based virtual services for enterprise customers, adding that option to both its gray box and white box edge solutions for typical applications such as firewalls and WAN optimization.

The new "as-a-service" virtualized network functions will give enterprises new options and are most typically going to be used in addition to premises-based deployments, says Victoria Lonker, executive director, network and virtual solutions at Verizon. She tells Light Reading in an interview that most customers are looking to perform some functions in the cloud and others at the edge or on premises. (See Verizon Makes Hosted Services Pay-As-You-Go.)

"For example, some customers are actually putting SD-WAN functions at the edge, at their prem, but they are looking at maybe putting some of the advanced firewall and security capabilities in the cloud because then that cloud-based firewall could serve more than one site versus having to put a single virtual or physical firewall at each customer site or location," Lonker says.

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In other instances, enterprises may be consuming cloud-based firewall services that Verizon delivers using physical firewalls within its infrastructure. Moving to a virtualized cloud-based firewall "will give them more customer control versus Verizon control," she comments.

Verizon is delivering its new service options on the SDN-NFV infrastructure it already built for its own network. Supporting those services meant getting that infrastructure in place, globally, and adding orchestration on top of that to enable Verizon to do service-chaining, closed-loop service assurance and testing of the complete solution. The company is working with an orchestration vendor, but hasn't yet publicly identified that partner.

"We were doing that with some semi-automation in the premises solution before but with hosted network services, we now do that across the spectrum," she says.

The early options include cloud-based versions of everything that Verizon was already offering with SD-WAN, WAN optimization and security vendors, and the company expects to offer new options in the coming months. But this doesn't mean that Verizon is ready to announce a VNF storefront from which enterprises can pick and choose.

"Our services are offered in an as-a-service model, meaning I also manage that application on behalf of the customer and I don't know that I'll necessarily become the Amazon store for virtual network functions where any and all can come because I've got to be able to successfully manage that for the customer and have that in-depth knowledge and expertise," Lonker says.

The initial functions are those with familiar vendors and also the ones customers are seeking, and additional expansion will be driven by customer feedback, Lonker says. Having initially focused on enterprises customers, Verizon is now exploring what medium-sized businesses need, she adds.

Lonker admits interoperability is still "the long pole in the tent," and that includes both interoperability among vendors and between vendors and Verizon's orchestration. But she says the company is not yet sure it's ready to outsource that effort to industry groups.

"The challenge is balancing how much of that you have to validate yourself to prove and test and support and make sure you have deep relationships with your vendors and some of that comes with that integration versus having someone else do that for you and trusting the results," she says. "So I think we are not yet at a place where we know what the right balance is but we would like to figure that out and get that faster."

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

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