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Cyan's CenturyLink Win Built on Experience, Flexibility

CenturyLink chose Cyan's Blue Planet as its virtualization orchestrator for a combination of the vendor's experience and the adaptability of its approach to activation, a top technical executive tells Light Reading. (See CenturyLink Lands on Cyan's Blue Planet and CenturyLink Chooses Cyan for NFV Orchestration.)

James Feger, VP of Network Strategy & Development, heads a company-wide infrastructure support organization under the new CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) structure announced recently by CTO Aamir Hussain. Because CenturyLink is being transformed into a single agile organization, in which cloud and network are combined, Cyan Inc. 's focus on being quickly able to adapt to new services through applications programming interfaces (APIs) made it the right fit. (See New CenturyLink CTO in Major Overhaul.)

"We have a very strong API development team in Seattle," Feger notes. "As part of our transformation, one of the things we needed on the network side was an architecture that was extensible through the API calls. When we look at service calls or micro-service changes, we need to hit all of that through APIs and not have to go through a second set of portals or long development cycles. Ultimately we want our network systems to react as part of the cloud system."

CenturyLink looked at a significant number of companies in the burgeoning orchestration field and found others with different strengths -- the ability to stitch things together effectively, an end-to-end ecosystem and marketplace -- but felt where Cyan excelled more closely matched its needs, he adds.

And while some might see Cyan's win over larger players as the victory of an upstart, Feger points to the company's track record in a relatively new field that includes announced companies known for their pioneering efforts, such as Colt, as well as other unannounced and trial customers.

"Cyan has quietly got a few trials going on and they've quietly got some deployments happening," he says. "I think this was one where we felt it was a safe bet."


Read more about NFV strategies and the challenges of orchestration on our NFV channel here on Light Reading.

At this point, CenturyLink is in what Feger calls "pre-production development" of its converged operation including virtualized functions and is "hoping to have a lot of this stood up starting in the summer time." The company will then start to add additional services, possibly starting with internal services first, as it did with its initial NFV efforts, which including a virtualized internal content delivery network. (See Inside CenturyLink's NFV/SDN Strategy.)

Feger admits, however, that the company's transition to agile operations makes talking about timelines a little trickier. Where once the traditional telecom lingo of measuring progress in months would be appropriate, project plans have been replaced by sprints and a series of product iterations.

"So saying by X date we will have these three functions is more of a challenge," he says with a laugh.

The benefits of this approach will play out fairly quickly. Being able to empower customers to add their own features, such as firewalls, to an existing service is a powerful tool, and having common gateways that handle service requests, regardless of the part of the business in which they originate, will simplify operations as well, Feger says.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

cnwedit 3/13/2015 | 2:24:53 PM
Re: Cyan They were hinting at a big customer in one of their earnings calls and I assume this was it. There are, apparently, other customers in the wings who are not announced, but I doubt one as big as CenturyLink.
DOShea 3/13/2015 | 1:57:49 PM
Cyan Cyan has been under a lot of pressure to produce a Tier 1 customer, admitting that some of the decisions it had hoped for last year were delayed into this year. I wonder who's next. This deals seems to have taken a little of the pressure off, at least in Wall Street's view, with the stock price up about 10% since earlier in the week.
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