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NFV (Network functions virtualization)

Virtualization to Transform CPE

Network functions virtualization (NFV)/software-defined networking (SDN) fever is gripping the telecom world, and the effects of redesigning networks to make greater use of virtualization and programmable control plane techniques look set to be felt throughout network operators' organizations. One place where NFV is about to have a major impact is the customer premises.

Operators spend billions of dollars supplying, installing, configuring, and maintaining customer premises equipment (CPE), both for enterprise and for residential customers. Many customer sites are equipped with multiple devices: set-top boxes, data storage, and home gateways in the residential market. There are also routers and security, bandwidth management, and storage devices in the business market, to name just a few.

Virtualization techniques offer the opportunity to reduce the number of individual devices at locations; to enable remote hosting, configuration, and management of functions traditionally resident at the customer premises; or even to enable virtualization of functions and features onto higher-spec individual devices at the customer site. There have been debates for years about whether customer premises should have thin-client devices or multi-purpose devices capable of running many complex applications. That debate has intensified in the world of NFV.

Many vendors of residential and enterprise CPE have yet to show their hands. They remain tight-lipped about how they plan to evolve their products and services to cope with the changes that will be forced on them as operators rebuild their networks for the next decade. (Most of them state privately that they are involved in tests and trials with friendly customers.)

Those that have launched new products and services under the broad description of virtualized CPE, though, have already shown enough for us to see that CPE virtualization is going to shake up the supply chain, is going to lead to new players arriving in the market, and is likely to lead to several suppliers disappearing.

In the view of this analyst, operators will not be slow to adopt virtualization techniques at the customer premises: There is too much money involved, and the possibilities for new technology approaches are too compelling. The options newly available to network operators and service providers promise to reduce capex, drive down ongoing opex, speed time to market, and enable them to launch new services without replacing old equipment. In the words of one industry player interviewed for the report, operators are "clamoring" to see, test, and explore the business cases for virtualized CPE functions.

The latest Heavy Reading Insider, Virtual CPE: Virtually Ready to Cut Costs, Drive Revenue & Disenfranchise Vendors, examines the state of development of CPE virtualization, exploring the benefits, potential timelines for adoption, and solutions available from selected leading players in the enterprise and residential CPE markets.

— Simon Sherrington, Analyst, Heavy Reading Insider


Virtual CPE: Virtually Ready to Cut Costs, Drive Revenue & Disenfranchise Vendors, a 20-page report, is available as part of an annual subscription (12 monthly issues) to Heavy Reading Insider, priced at $1,595. This report is available for $900. To subscribe, please visit: www.heavyreading.com/insider.

RMersh 5/8/2014 | 2:00:36 PM
Re: Revolutionary Possibly, but truck rolls are not just an issue of the CPE. And of course reconfiguring CPE is already being done via TR-069, but yes NFV could have some very good impacts on CPE and the provision of services. The BBF is already working in the area of the virtual RG both for business and residential. You check the work in progress at: www.broadband-forum.org
Mitch Wagner 5/5/2014 | 2:26:24 PM
Revolutionary

NFV is going to have a huge impact for the positive on CPE. Carriers will be able to reconfigure customer equipment on the fly in software without having to roll trucks, and offer benefits such as 30-day free trials that today are economically impossible. 

"There have been debates for years about whether customer premises should have thin-client devices or multi-purpose devices capable of running many complex applications."

Interesting perspective. Certainly the success of webmail and other apps suggests that thin clients should be reasonable for all but the most complex business uses. 

 

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