Verizon Expands SDN Strategy for Enterprises

In response to enterprise customers' rapid migration to the cloud and rising demand for virtualized services, Verizon is expanding its software defined networking (SDN) platform by incorporating Versa Networks' Cloud IP Platform into Verizon's new Software Defined Secure Branch (SD-Branch) managed service.

The new SD-Branch category of Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s SDN platform will deliver the full Versa Networks Cloud IP Platform which includes SD-WAN, software-defined routing, Software-Defined (SD) Security, Versa FlexVNF Software and more, according to an announcement yesterday. (See Versa Networks Added to Verizon's Software Defined Networking Ecosystem .)

In addition to providing software-based networking and virtualized security services, the SD-Branch service also addresses cloud-based end user management for Verizon's enterprise customers, and delivers Versa's VNFs on-premises or in the cloud.

"Businesses are adopting digital technologies as mainstream elements of their go to market strategy," said Shawn Hakl, vice president of business networking and security solutions for Verizon, in the announcement. "Software defining the branch office and WAN provides them with a flexible networking platform to accelerate cloud and digital migration while reducing IT complexity and controlling costs."

During his keynote at Light Reading's June event -- SD-WAN Strategies for Success -- Hakl explained that Verizon expects true white-box and software-only strategies from vendors. Hakl added that vendors should be able to deploy their own VNFs on existing white boxes -- Versa's Cloud IP Platform can be delivered in the cloud or on a gray box as a VNF, or run on white box and x86 hardware. Hakl also outlined Verizon's approach to SD-WAN and said Verizon's enterprise customers want to leverage SD-WAN to "expand the range of options as they digitize their business." (See Verizon: Get the Gray Out.)

Verizon Enterprise Solutions announced its first set of virtual network services -- including security, WAN optimization and SD-WAN -- in July 2016. At that time, the Tier 1 was partnering with Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Viptela for SD-WAN services. That partnership remains unchanged today despite Cisco's recent $610 million acquisition of Viptela, which it plans to integrate by the end of June 2018. (See Verizon's Next With VNFs and Is the End Near for Cisco's IWAN?)

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Verizon is adding the SD-Branch service to its Virtual Network Services offering to assist enterprise customers in virtualizing multiple components in their branch offices. In addition, Verizon is providing the new service in an effort to help customers lower operating costs with centralized control and automated provisioning, improve cloud user experience, provide multi-site network support and application-based quality of service, reduce complexity in branch office networking and secure the branch with less equipment.

Versa's Cloud IP Platform provides customers with "deep insight and visibility into what's going on in the network, what's going on in the branch... that contextual knowledge is of users, devices, locations, applications, sessions and the network path that's being used," said Kelly Ahuja, CEO of Versa Networks, in an interview with Light Reading.

The Cloud IP Platform also utilizes the Versa FlexVNF Software, and provides Layer 3 to Layer 7 IP services on a cloud-native, multi-tenant software platform. Ahuja explained that enterprises can leverage that contextual knowledge for making policy decisions, especially when transporting workloads from private cloud to multi-cloud or SaaS. The Cloud IP Platform is programmable with SDN constructs, enabling the network to automatically and dynamically react to changing conditions in SLA, jitter, policy violation, etc.

"MSPs [Managed Service Providers] seek flexibility in network functions offerings for on-premise, vCPE, and uCPE scenarios as well as the agility to quickly add and modify services that are enabled by a software defined approach," said Mike Fratto, research director for Enterprise Networking and Data Center Technology at GlobalData, in an email to Light Reading. "MSPs can build their own infrastructure but it makes more sense to partner with a vendor that has a robust software suite allowing the MSP to focus on providing value. SD-Branch software like Versa’s, as well as from its competitors, allows MSP's to rapidly bring up service offerings quickly."

Versa now has three major service provider partners in the US, including Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), in addition to Verizon. Comcast is the first cable provider developing a SD-WAN product which is currently in beta tests using Versa's Cloud IP Platform, and scheduled for full market deployment later in 2017. Versa's additional service provider and MSP partners include S-Net Communications, Tata Communciations, Nitel and more. (See Cable Eyes SD-WAN to Boost Business Services and CenturyLink: Hybrid SD-WANs Ain't No Picnic.)

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— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Joe Stanganelli 8/23/2017 | 9:03:51 PM
VZ and SDN I've spoken to Hakl before about SDN and SD-WAN (see, e.g., this link), who has essentially told me that SDN, SD-WAN, SDP, and other SDX solutions/VNFs are effectively linked -- despite not being quite the same thing -- because of their focus on technology operationalization and the automation of the network so as to make networks and the humans working on and wtihin them more efficient.

VZ seems to be very focused on getting to intelligent networks, so I expect to see yet more to come in the near future here.
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