Orange Business Services is to launch a network-as-a-service (NaaS) offering for multinational customers in 70 countries by the end of this year, Light Reading has learned.
The new service will use the "Easy Go" brand and take advantage of the investments Orange Business Services has been making in software and virtualization technologies.
The move had been anticipated since March this year, when Light Reading first broke news of Orange's plans, and builds on commercial trials the operator has been carrying out with small and midsized enterprise customers in France under the brand name of EasyConnect. (See Orange Plots Wider Rollout of NFV for SMEs and Orange Unveils NFV-Based Offering for SMBs.)
Pitched initially at "big companies with small sites," according to Orange executive Franck Morales, the Easy Go offering heralds a gigantic shift in the way Orange provides services to customers, with major implications for Orange's business model and entire modus operandi.
By adopting the on-demand principles popularized by web-scale players, Orange hopes to satisfy customers asking for speedier service delivery and more control over the connectivity applications they use.
But the investments in SDN and NFV are also aimed at redefining Orange's relationship with equipment vendors, allowing it to license technologies more flexibly and economically and without being "locked in" to one supplier's products.
The first connectivity services that will be offered under the NaaS umbrella, and provided as part of the Easy Go offering, will be focused on network security and cover functions such as firewalls, web filtering and application security control.
After receiving a "plug and play" CPE, a customer will be able to use a self-service portal to order, set up and monitor network services that are fully compatible with the business VPN (virtual private network).
"A main use case could be the retail market where you might need to change the location of shops every six months," says Morales, the vice president of connectivity marketing for Orange Business Services. "Changing connections and services is quite painful today for customers and we want to make that simple for them."
Security appears to have come out top in recent customer surveys gauging interest in NaaS capabilities, which partly explains the initial focus here, but Morales also points out that vendors have made greater progress on virtualizing security functions than in other areas.
Nevertheless, Orange expects to include other connectivity functions under the Easy Go brand in future. A WAN optimization service is likely to be the first to follow the security options. And as NaaS offerings are made available to bigger sites, bandwidth-on-demand capabilities will become a part of the picture.
Orange has indicated that its NaaS rollout will be accompanied by the extension of SDN and NFV technologies to additional points of presence (PoPs) -- eight by the end of this year, 18 by the end of 2017 and more than 40 in 2018.
As revealed in March, the operator appears to have settled on a number of key vendors for its main infrastructure, choosing Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN)'s Blue Planet technology for orchestration and VNF (virtual network function) management, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR)'s Contrail technology as the SDN controller and Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) for the OpenStack-based virtual infrastructure manager.
Although UBiqube Plc provided a VNF manager during trials in 2015, it seems to have been dropped in favor of Blue Planet for the commercial phase. "We carried out trials with no commitment to have those vendors as definite partners -- some of them are but some are not," says Morales.
When it comes to the virtual network functions, Orange has identified a number of suppliers as partners, including Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Fortinet Inc. , InfoVista SA and Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD). The ultimate goal, says Morales, is to have several vendors for one virtualized function so that Orange can address a broader range of customer requirements.
Next page: Vendor frustration