& cplSiteName &

Virtual CPE: An Early Mover for Virtual Networks

Mitch Wagner
1/21/2015
50%
50%

While it's intuitively obvious that software-defined and virtualized networks hold the key to the future of communications and data services, intuition is a bad way of making strategic business decisions. Before making the big transition from conventional hardware-based networking to SDN and NFV, network operators need some way to test intuition against reality: Virtual CPE can be that test.

As an industry, we've been talking to death about the benefits of SDN and NFV. You've heard it a million times. C'mon, say it with me now everybody: SDN and NFV can reduce capex and opex by allowing network operators to make changes rapidly and programmatically in software, rather than using CLIs or having to send technicians out to make physical changes in network equipment. The benefits go beyond just saving costs -- SDN and NFV can reduce time-to-market for new services from days, weeks, and months to minutes and hours, allowing customers to configure new services themselves through a browser-based control panel.

Sounds great in theory.

You know what else sounded great in theory? A TV series set on the glamorous world of an atomic train! That didn't work, as you can see below. So you'd better find a way to test the virtues of software networking before something like this happens to you:

That's where virtual CPE comes in.

Customer premises equipment has several characteristics that make it ideal as a place to test the theoretical benefits of software networking -- NFV in particular -- to make sure the theory aligns with reality, before investing big in software networking.

The benefits of using virtual CPE for a software networking trial include:

Virtual CPE can be contained. You can deploy virtual CPE to a single customer, to a group of customers, or to an entire geographic region, without having to involve the whole network. The trial can be confined to a portion of the network as small and large as you want.

Virtual CPE benefits are measurable. You know how much it costs to deploy conventional CPE. You can figure out the costs of virtual CPE. You know what you're charging customers for their CPE. Measuring the financial impact of introducing virtual CPE is just simple arithmetic. It's elementary!

The potential cost and pain reductions are big. Like I said earlier, reconfiguring physical networks often requires hardware reconfiguration, and that's particularly difficult because your customer premises equipment is (and this is a difficult concept, so stay with me) not here, on your network. It's over there on the customer premises. Physical CPE installation and reconfiguration requires sending a flesh-and-blood human being out to install new hardware (the industry jargon is a "truck roll," which I love), and then if the customer wants to make a change, you need to do another truck roll to reconfigure or swap out the hardware.

With virtual CPE, you often have just one truck roll, to set up the appliance on which the virtual CPE runs. After that, reconfigurations and upgrades can be managed remotely. Or you just drop-ship the appliance, and instruct someone on the customer premises to plug in the power and connect the network.

NFV and virtual CPE are in close alignment. NFV is all about virtualizing network functions such as firewalls and VPNs. These are the very same functions very likely to be deployed as CPE.


Find out more about network functions virtualization on Light Reading's NFV channel.


Virtual CPE is seeing real-world deployment. Colt Technology Services Group Ltd provides virtual CPE and is looking to upgrade its management layer to meet the demand. And Telefónica looked to virtual CPE as part of its ambitious UNICA network upgrade disclosed a year ago. (See Colt Preps Next-Gen OSS for NFV, SDN, Colt Pulls the Trigger on Data Center Virtualization and Telefónica Unveils Aggressive NFV Plans.)

On the vendor side, Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) cited virtual CPE as one of the emerging use cases for its Vyatta Controller SDN software. Virtual CPE is driving RAD Data Communications Ltd. 's Distributed NFV vision, as well as Overture Networks Inc. 's Virtual Service Edge platform. (See Brocade: Vyatta Controller 'Use Cases Are Crystallizing' , RAD Pushes Distributed NFV Forward, Overture Adds Hardware to Its NFV Pitch , Overture Trials NFV Software With Hidden Punch.)

Virtual CPE makes a great test for the benefits of SDN. Once you've demonstrated success for virtual CPE, you're on firmer ground for taking on the really big job of virtualizing a whole lot more of the network.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

(4)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
davidmpollack
50%
50%
davidmpollack,
User Rank: Light Beer
1/28/2015 | 12:18:18 PM
Edge Networks Metephors
Supertrain alusion even more apt when you appreciate that it ended up as Snowpiercer. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CCYQtwIwAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DvcGdmh0_toY&ei=YhnJVJS2D8vjoASP7YAY&usg=AFQjCNH9j92bJnDJDqPRlkGIxoHMZpd6tw&sig2=yNcaawCUxn5WaIPFMQ82ew&bvm=bv.84607526,d.cGU
dwx
50%
50%
dwx,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/21/2015 | 2:39:28 PM
Everyone on the bandwagon
One of the main first applications for ALU Nuage platform is virtual CPE.  Juniper has also put quite a bit of work into developing a virtual CPE strategy as well.   Juniper calls it Cloud CPE and I think a lot of the work came out of their collaboration with Colt.

vCPE has another context as well which involves running a mature network OS on a piece of commodity hardware like fanless systems from Lanner and many other vendors.  You still need some hardware at the premise so it is these stripped down boxes basically tunneling traffic to the cloud vendors will need as well.  
jhodgesk1s
50%
50%
jhodgesk1s,
User Rank: Light Sabre
1/21/2015 | 2:22:10 PM
Re: Edge networks
Nice article Mitch. I am currently doing a report and plan some custom research in this area, but I agree it's moving ahead and I expect to see some traction at MWC 2015. 

I also see vCPE and D-NFV as a way to simplify the integration of NFV and SDN. 

 
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
1/21/2015 | 1:24:01 PM
Edge networks
Other edge network technologies, not just CPE, are candidates for getting started with software networks. The keys are to be able to encapsulate from the network as a whole, and for quantifying business value to be a straightforward profit. 
More Blogs from Wagner’s Ring
Apple haters have been sounding the alarm for a decade, but this time the bad news is real.
Superior technology isn't enough.
In a misguided attempt to protect content creators, the EU's Article 11 and Article 13 would have the opposite effect, preserving Facebook, Google and other hypercloud platforms' monopolies – forever.
IBM and Cisco are working with Europe's largest port to reduce fuel consumption and other costs and improve safety.
In which we receive an alarming email from Oracle.
Featured Video
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
March 12-14, 2019, Denver, Colorado
April 2, 2019, New York, New York
April 8, 2019, Las Vegas, Nevada
May 6, 2019, Denver, Colorado
May 6-8, 2019, Denver, Colorado
May 21, 2019, Nice, France
September 17-19, 2019, Dallas, Texas
October 1, 2019, New Orleans, Louisiana
October 10, 2019, New York, New York
November 5, 2019, London, England
December 3, 2019, New York, New York
December 5-3, 2019, Viena, Austria
All Upcoming Live Events