Netcracker today rolls out new capabilities that it says will take the risk out of commercializing NFV for network operators, and even serve as a backstop to their existing back-office systems. That could keep those systems from being replaced in the near term in big transformation projects, which would put millions into parent company NEC's coffers.
NEC/Netcracker Technology Corp. is rolling out a network-as-a-service solution to rapidly enable business applications that can be sold today. This NaaS is the first of many operator solutions Netcracker plans to roll out on the Agile Virtualization Platform and Practice (AVP) system it unveiled last spring and this one specifically targets a space where many operators can make money quickly: selling new services to businesses via cloud-based applications and a self-service portal to be used for buying them. (See NEC & NetCracker Serve Up Virtualization Buzzword Soup and NEC, Netcracker Unveil AVP for SDN/NFV Adoption.)
Netcracker is touting this as everything a network operator needs to get started selling virtual network services and it is also promising to help them plug gaps in their back-office systems, using microservices, to enable all of this to work today, in advance of the major transformation of OSS/BSS systems that may lie ahead.
"What we are bringing together is not just the network practice but the software applications, the software-as-a-service-based services, VNFs as a service, all of that on a common marketplace," says Ari Banerjee, senior director of strategy for Netcracker. "So it is a full end-to-end environment which encompasses orchestration, network service VNFs, cloud applications, service cloud marketplace portals and the processes and practices that operators need to deploy and monetize their service, with a very deep focus on the B2B and enterprise market."
The aim is to take out the risk of NFV commercialization, he adds. "For operators, there is zero risk," Banerjee says. "What can go wrong, we are going to take care of it."
The NEC/Netcracker NaaS includes a cloud marketplace from which basic network services, value-added network services and cloud-based business applications can all be delivered to businesses. The network service provider can create and customize their own combinations of things like virtual CPE, software-defined wide area networks, firewalls, web filtering, WAN optimization and more, and allow their business customers to also order business productivity tools like Office 365.
"Think of it like a first-generation Apple iPhone," Banerjee says. "It comes with basic applications but then there is an app store, where you can get more."
This functionality is already in use by seven operator customers today, most of which have not yet been announced. A large European operator is using Netcracker's microservices to create a catalog extension which can manage the virtual network functions that its existing business portal and catalog system -- on which Banerjee says it spent millions -- cannot handle. A second microservice enables the web portal to support VNFs as a service and a third one uses policy as a function to enable policy-driven spinning up of VNFs based on VMWare or OpenStack.
One operator, Telefónica, is scheduled to appear with Netcracker on a panel today at the SDN World Congress in the Hague, and is expected to talk more then about what it is doing for business customers.
"We love big IT transformations, those are the projects that give us millions and millions of dollars," Banerjee says. "The problem in many cases is that people are trying to commercialize SDN and NFV and do that quickly."
They may not have the budget or time for a massive transformation, but can't push new virtualized services out the door without key operations and billing functions.
"What we are saying is we are going to utilize microservices for you to basically augment your existing IT systems so that for the time being, you don't need to go for a full-scale replacement of BSS, OSS, CRM or self-service and so forth," he comments.
While Netcracker is basing its broader platform on some open source elements, Banerjee admits there is "secret sauce" involved, which obviously ties network operators to a single vendor and its software. The company says it is being asked by network operators for help in getting to an open source approach eventually and will be helping in that migration.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading