ConteXtream today upgraded its six-year-old SDN fabric to enhance service providers' ability to provide customized subscriber services.
"Service providers haven't really created a relationship with the subscriber," says Anshu Agarwal, VP marketing for ConteXtream . "They haven't offered the personalized services the subscriber needs. There are technical challenges to doing that -- it doesn't come cheap and easy."
To create custom service packages for users, service providers need to be able to reconfigure their network software rapidly, and that's where ConteXtream's ContexNet 4.0 SDN fabric comes in.
The new ContexNet 4.0 SDN fabric is designed to serve as a platform for multivendor NFV. It is based on the OpenDaylight SDN controller, supports virtualization, and new use cases such as virtualizing the Evolved Packet Core (EPC). The new version supports OpenStack, the OpenFlow protocol southbound, and RESTful APIs northbound.
Standards support allows the new ContexNet 4.0 SDN fabric to support third-party virtualized network functions (VNFs). Previously ContexNet supported physical functions running on bare-metal servers but not running in a virtualized manner. The change means that network operators looking to move a VNF need only make a change in software, rather than moving a physical server, Agarwal says.
ContexNet 4.0 is available in limited release now, with general availability scheduled or the first quarter of 2015.
"It's the talk of the industry that OTT providers are eating service providers' lunch," Agarwal says. ContexNet's flexible SDN platform will allow providers to create custom services such as sponsored data plans, or unlimited free access to services such as Facebook, and launch those services quickly using easily using the SDN fabric.
The kind of agility ConteXtream describes is leading the industry drive to SDN and NFV. Carriers want to be able to deploy and reconfigure services quickly for their customers, without having to manually reconfigure hardware and roll trucks to install new equipment. Vendors including Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s Nuage Networks and Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) are enhancing programmability for their switches and introducing programmable SDN controllers, with many based on OpenDaylight. Programmability is also behind Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure.
Carriers such as Colt Technology Services Group Ltd and European startup Join Experience are implementing SDN to make their networks more agile. (See Startup Aims to Be Europe's First Virtualized Telco and Colt Pulls the Trigger on Data Center Virtualization.)
Seven-year-old, privately held ConteXtream, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., had a head start on the SDN trend, with fabric in production deployment since 2008. Its software provides federated control using a distributed controller and virtual switches to load balance on physical and virtual network equipment. The fabric is application-aware, to identify and steer traffic to the specific subset of network functions or services needed to support each subscriber flow. ConteXtream claims its fabric is in use by Tier 1 carriers and MSOs in more than 50 cities with more than 50 million subscribers.
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