Building on three years of experience with its virtualization platform, Overture today announced Ensemble 2.0, which not only includes new functionality but new branding and a new way for service providers to pay for software. (See Overture Upgrades to Ensemble 2.0.)
The latter is a key element, notes Overture Networks Inc. CTO Prayson Pate, if telecom network operators are to reap the full benefits of virtualization and behave like the web-scale companies with whom they want to compete. And it's why Overture has introduced Overture Registrar, a central management platform for hardware and application registration that, among other things, controls license management and allows zero-touch configuration of applications and services. Registrar is the one major element that is totally new in Overture's Ensemble 2.0.
"The early VNFs were software-based but were priced essentially like hardware," Pate says. "New business models are as important as the technology, getting away from lump-sum payments and moving to a shared risk-shared reward, pay-as-you-go model."
What Overture Registrar will enable, among other things, are some innovative ways to do that pricing, based on a variety of factors, so that network operators aren't locked into a single choice. It will also register and authenticate Overture hardware and software and authenticate application instances via RADIUS so that it can do zero-touch configuration.
Another new piece of Ensemble 2.0 is the extension and renaming of Ensemble Carrier Ethernet, the virtualized Carrier Ethernet functionality in use today by Masergy Communications Inc. and others, into the network domain. Now called Overture Connector, it supports deployment of virtual functions across both Layer 2 (Ethernet) and Layer 3 (IP), and in conjunction with Overture Orchestrator will enable service-chaining of multiple sites, whether they are on-net or off-net, and regardless of the type of connection. (See Masergy's Bold NFV Play Is Customer Driven.)
"The important thing is to deliver a consistent service experience," Pate says. "We can provide the tunnels and the performance to let service providers deliver low-latency and high-performance services on standard hardware platforms."
That builds on testing Overture has done with a group of vendors that are part of its open ecosystem to prove the performance capabilities of off-the-shelf hardware in the network, especially at the edge. Achieving that cost advantage of commercial hardware is another key point in making virtualization practical, Pate notes. (See Multi-Vendor NFV Trial Scores 1-Gigabit Throughput and Overture Claims NFV Performance Benchmark.)
What Overture and its service provider customers have learned in three years is that, while NFV promises the ability to centralize software-based functions, there are some things such as security, optimization and termination that have to be virtualized at the edge, he says. Doing so in the most cost-effective and manageable way possible, over the available connections even if they are the most basic, also becomes important, Pate says.
The notion of customer experience and growing a practical base of usable functionality is also an element of what Overture is pushing with Ensemble 2.0. Although the company isn't naming its Tier 1 customers, it claims eight of them, including three in Europe, two in the US, one in Asia, one in Latin America and one described as "worldwide." There are also a growing number of major players that are part of its ecosystem, built on open APIs as they are available, and a growing library of VNFs.
Most, but not all, of those customers were already using Overture in their Ethernet access networks, which gave the company a leg up. What Overture is doing now, however, would extend the company's reach well into the broader virtualization process.
Overture continues to enhance the management capabilities of its Orchestrator, but with the Ensemble 2.0 release, the primary change is in branding. What was Ensemble Service Orchestrator is now Overture Orchestrator, for simplicity and clarity, Pate says. Other rebranded elements include Overture Analytics, formerly Ensemble Service Intelligence. Analytics is key to linking network resources with the faster spin-up of applications and services in an "intent-based" approach that lets the network respond to higher level requests as appropriate based on requirements and current circumstances.
At its core, Ensemble 2.0 promises functionality in demand today -- the ability to manage both physical and virtual resources on an application or service basis with end-to-end lifecycle management; support for any cloud platform; analytics-driven correlation of network resources and service requirements; an open ecosystem and applications programming interfaces (APIs) back into existing operations and business support system.
With Ensemble 2.0, Overture continues to press ahead alongside much larger players, as well as its competitors in Ethernet access, focusing on how to help service providers deliver services. "Everything we do has to be focused on delivering revenues and services," Pate says.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading