Nuage, the Alcatel-Lucent SDN business, plans to introduce a software-based solution designed to allow service providers to connect business customers to data centers and cloud services as easily as activating a mobile phone.
The new Virtualized Network Services extends Nuage's data center SDN to automate connections for branch offices. VNS is available as software, or preloaded on x86 hardware. It's in trials now, and will be available in the first quarter of 2015.
"What we are doing is a model for delivering network services, turning up new sites, that is very much in the spirit of what happens in mobile networks today, as opposed to a guy with specialized expertise showing up at your site," says Nuage Networks marketing head Houman Modarres. Instead of sending out a technician to install hardware equipment, load software and configure it, carriers can just drop-ship a box to a customer site and activate service remotely. "It's very automated, very self-service and very much like the experience you have today when you activate mobile service," Modarres says.
VNS will give carriers the ability to provide extra flexibility in their services, Modarres says. "This allows a service provider that has managed service offerings to further down-market to medium or small enterprises where it has been cost prohibitive," Modarres says. Carriers can also expand outside the regional footprint of their networks by offering services over the public Internet. And enterprises can open temporary offices in a cost-effective fashion, or branch offices outside the carriers' region without engaging with a different carrier.
VNS will also help carriers remain competitive in a market where sophisticated enterprise customers are capable of managing their own networks and locking carriers out, says Sunil Khandekar, Nuage founder and CEO. "This is what [enterprise] customers are demanding. This is why [carriers] are experiencing churn. This is why customers are abandoning them. They're saying, 'I can just do it myself,'" Khandekar says.
VNS is designed to replace a proprietary branch router. It runs an overlay networking approach, on any network that delivers IP connectivity and can establish tunnels. It connects to any cloud, including Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) or private clouds.
VNS is fundamentally the same as the Virtualized Services Platform, Nuage's data center VPN, with added security, including IPsec and distributed management of keys, and optimization software that runs on bootstrap after it's switched on by a non-technical services.
"When we launched Nuage 18 months ago, we said we'd bring it to the data centers and beyond. This is the beyond," Khandekar says. (See Alcatel-Lucent Spins Up Its SDN.)
The company is so convinced that anyone (in theory) could perform the installation, it made a video to show how a branch could be added to a corporate network in just a few minutes without a site visit:
Nuage is part of parent Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU)'s restructuring to focus on services as well as products, and encourage customers to pick best-of-breed products rather than single-vendor proprietary solutions. Managed service provider OVH and French cloud provider Numergy are deploying Nuage's SDN networks. (See AlcaLu's Combes: 'We Are Now Back on Track', OVH Taps Nuage for SDN and Numergy Taps Nuage SDN for Cloud.)
VNS is the very essence of what carriers are looking for in SDN and NFV -- the ability to get past expensive proprietary hardware requiring manual installation and configuration to instead deliver services over the network, automatically, without manual labor. If Nuage can deliver on that promise, it should find strong demand for the service.