Verizon is taking its SDN strategy to the next level with a major push towards the deployment of bare-metal switches in its next-generation networking architecture, according to multiple sources.
The sources say that Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) is still in the early stages of a significant trial, first revealed by The Rayno Report, that involves SDN vendors Pica8 Inc. , which develops bare-metal switches, and Cumulus Networks , which makes a Linux-based SDN switch operating system. (See Pica8 Raises $12.5M, Strengthens Japan Ties and Dell Opens Arms to Cumulus OS.)
Light Reading's sources say the operator aims to determine whether bare-metal switches, which are based on standard server hardware, could eventually replace more expensive, proprietary Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) equipment, which is currently widely deployed by Verizon. The Rayno Report suggests that Juniper technology is being evaluated for the trial.
Our sources tell us the initiative will be a big deal in the long run, but it's currently at the proof-of-concept stage. That comes as no surprise given the significant challenges that network operators face in managing networks that incorporate SDN and NFV capabilities. (See NFV, SDN Is a Catalyst for OSS Rethink , Highlighting 5 OSS Strategies for NFV/SDN and ETSI Group to Tackle Thorny Operations Issues.)
Verizon and the vendors involved have not yet responded to requests for comment.
Verizon is no stranger to SDN. John Considine, CTO of Verizon Terremark, described in May how the company is building out its cloud infrastructure fabric to accommodate enterprise customers with hybrid cloud services, using modules built on compute, storage and SDN networking components, along with home-grown SDN software. Verizon is concerned about the operational impact of SDN and NFV, another executive said in June. (See Verizon Brings Thunder to the Cloud and Verizon Worried About SDN, NFV Impacts.)
For Juniper, this is a big deal. CEO Shaygan Kheradpir quit abruptly this month after having been in charge less than a year, following a "review by the board of directors of his leadership and his conduct in connection with a particular negotiation with a customer." There has been no confirmation from any parties that Verizon is the customer in question, though the operator's name has cropped up in speculation over the affair. (See Turmoil at Juniper as CEO Quits.)
During Kheradpir's tenure, Juniper faced public attack from activist investors, a strategy review, job cuts, executive defections and a capex crunch by service providers that deflated revenues for Juniper and many other networking vendors. Kheradpir was replaced by Rami Rahim, a Juniper employee of 17 years who was most recently executive vice president and general manager, Juniper Development and Innovation. (See Juniper Pummeled by Weak Carrier Demand.)
Juniper, of course, is not out of the running at Verizon, which, like other major operators, is in the early stages of figuring out how SDN and NFV will figure in its long-term plans. Like other major IP vendors, Juniper, best known for its high-performance proprietary routers and switches, this month announced that its MX Series 3D Universal Edge Routing platform will be available as a virtual router in the first quarter of 2015. Juniper brags the MX is the "first full-featured carrier-grade virtualized router" scalable from inexpensive x86 servers to high-performance proprietary hardware, though it has competition. (See Juniper Launches Virtual Routers, DevOps Capabilities and Alcatel-Lucent Joins Virtual Router Race.)
However, that Verizon is forging ahead with a significant virtualization project is a significant boost for the vendors touting bare-metal SDN systems, which are still unproven at scale.
AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), meanwhile, launched its big SDN and NFV push with its Domain 2.0 program, announced 14 months ago. As part of that program, AT&T mandates its suppliers to support SDN and NFV, with a goal of reducing total cost of ownership (TCO). (See AT&T Puts SDN/NFV in Driver's Seat, AT&T Reveals Audacious SDN Plans and MKM: Cisco Biggest Loser in AT&T SDN Plans.)
For many in the industry, next-generation New IP communications networks look set to be a hybrid mix of virtual applications underpinned by bare-metal servers and more traditional carrier-grade hardware systems based on high-performance packet-processing platforms.
Such a scenario would at least provide some longevity for the current product lines of vendors such as Juniper, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU). What the industry is waiting to see, though, is how prominent a role virtualized networking systems will play.