Overture Builds on NFV Foundation

Overture Networks has beefed up its NFV platform with new orchestration and control software and has introduced a virtual CPE product -- a carrier Ethernet VNF (virtual network function) that allows a conventional Ethernet Access Device appliance to be swapped out for a standard Intel-based server.

The new products are designed to help service providers that are under pressure to increase revenues while reducing costs. Overture Networks Inc. wants to help network operators address competitive pressures from new players, enable them to become more nimble and to embrace the cloud.

The orchestration and control software, which is called Ensemble Service Intelligence (ESI), both collects data and provides actionable intelligence to scale operations and tie the network into higher-level systems, says Overture Networks Inc. CTO Prayson Pate.

Today's tools require pre-defined data formats and relationships that are proprietary and inflexible, with pre-defined correlations. For example, in performing fault analysis for servers, current orchestration and control tools know about server events such as fan and disk failures, and some basics of virtualization. Existing tools can tie those factors together too. "But if you throw in services they're not familiar with, or external connections, or new pieces of hardware like virtualized switching, they're not really flexible enough to account for new pieces and correlations," Pate says. SDN and NFV add further complications.

ESI can correlate services with the underlying VNF and server hardware, enable fault-finding and analyze data that can help scale services up and down.

ESI incorporates a database engine, based on the Titan open source database, with proprietary functionality for correlating and storing data from VNFs and the physical layer, along with an inventory system, fault management tools and more. The database uses open standard APIs, supports standard Gremlin queries, can correlate results and make those results available to applications.

Orchestration applications sit on top of the database engine. Among the applications included in the initial release are lifecycle analysis of the VNF chain and dynamic scaling.

A network operator might use ESI to, for example, automatically scale out applications based on load levels and customer pre-authorization. "This shows you can take customer information from multiple sources, add policy, and do something interesting -- in this case, scaling out," says Pate.

ESI is available now.

The other new product is Ensemble Carrier Ethernet (ECE), which Overture claims is the first Carrier Ethernet 2.0 VNF.

ECE is virtual customer premises equipment that classifies traffic, applies quality-of-service rules, supports testing for service level agreement verifications, and more. "Instead of having it run on custom Broadcom or Marvel chips or a specific processor, we've ported it to a VNF that can run on an open Intel architecture server," Pate says.

"Because you've virtualized it, you can put it where you need it," Pate says. Eventually it can run in a data center or cloud, but for now it's designed to run on a server at the edge of the network.

Because ECE runs on a commodity server, it's less expensive than multiple appliances for Ethernet, VoIP, intrusion protection, and so forth. Network operators can also change and upgrade the service remotely, without truck rolls or service outage. "In terms of customers getting services on demand, the virtualized model is much more matched because now you can deploy virtual functions to match the needs of the service, and take them up and down," Pate says. Operators can offer try-before-you-buy 30-day trial periods for network services, as SaaS providers now do for web services. "An operator can't do that now if they have to put out an appliance, but if they can spin it up as software, that opens a whole new world of marketing," Pate says. (See: Virtual CPE: An Early Mover for Virtual Networks.)

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

The ECE will run on either Intel COTS servers or Overture's own 65vSE appliance, announced in June. (See Overture Adds Hardware to Its NFV Pitch

ECE will be available this quarter.

Overture launched its vE-CPE Ensemble Solution in April, a software appliance that includes virtual branch office router, VPN, and firewall, with additional VNF functions available as options. Carriers can deploy the software in a centralized environment, such as a data center or central office, or distribute the software to virtualization platforms on customer premises equipment. At that time, Tom Nolle, veteran industry consultant and the CEO and president of CIMI Corp., said the product seemed "fairly pedestrian" based on its capabilities, but packed a complete NFV implementation under its hood, putting Overture ahead of bigger players, including Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and others. (See Overture Trials NFV Software With Hidden Punch.)

— 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]

TomNolle 1/28/2015 | 11:44:10 AM
Re: Maybe Smallness is a Good Thing! Only about exploiting it, not driving it.  Everything that adds to hosting adds to the server market.  Everything that creates a market for software features adds to the software market.  Being a supplier of NFV Infrastructure or Virtual Network Functions is 90% positioning.  It's the people who can deploy and manage that create the benefits.  My personal test for having an NFV story is that you have a clear contribution to the benefit case, something distinct and differentiable.  That test is hard to meet if you don't have MANO.
Mitch Wagner 1/28/2015 | 11:21:56 AM
Re: Maybe Smallness is a Good Thing! Can a company without a MANO offering claim to be serious about NFV?
TomNolle 1/28/2015 | 11:02:24 AM
Re: Maybe Smallness is a Good Thing! Or at least a partnership target!  I think this raises an interesting opportunity for a reality check in the NFV space.  We have all manner of companies jumping on the NFV bandwagon with absolutely no useful functionality in MANO.  If these guys are serious about NFV they now have an opportunity to get world-class MANO functionality.  We'll see how many do!
Mitch Wagner 1/28/2015 | 10:57:31 AM
Re: Maybe Smallness is a Good Thing! Small company with big technology suggests acquisition target. 
TomNolle 1/27/2015 | 5:27:07 PM
Re: Maybe Smallness is a Good Thing! I think that people don't pay attention in general; everyone wants a revolution distilled to 300 words, which is never going to drive real change because it will never communicate anything detailed enough to be useful!

I think one of your points distills to the question of the difference between NFV and the cloud.  The cloud is a hosting element for NFV, but to fulfill the value propositions identified by operators there has to be more to it.  Is that "more to it" necessary in all situations?  Clearly not; users can deploy their own stuff and CSPs could also deploy "VNFs" without the NFV wrapper.  The challenge is whether you could deliver an SLA and deploy efficiently for a mass market without the trimmings.  We may find out the answer to that one eventually.

I totally agree with your questions, particularly the one on where operators might win.  We talk about Service Chaining like it's a pipeline from a vendor's mouth to god's ear.  We have to fulfill a need first and technology expectations second.
brooks7 1/27/2015 | 5:07:40 PM
Re: Maybe Smallness is a Good Thing! Tom,

I think there are two issues:

1 - People don't really pay attention here to what goes on in the IT world because they don't know.  If anybody followed my link to Barracuda, they would see that a small business could deploy virtual CPE today.  There are plenty of vendors out there that have virtualized their products in the old box IT space.

---- NOTE: These are competition for virtual CPE delivered by carriers.  Not studying what has been available and deployed already is a great way of not winning.

2 - We have a Carrier Centric View.  The second biggest problem we have is that we don't examine their customers and what they are doing.  Are the solutions that we are pitching solving problems that CIOs or IT Directiors have at the top of their list?

To me the big thing is we as vendors to Service Providers have to ask ourselves the following:

- Where in the entirety of the space are Service Providers likely to win the business?

- Is that what they are asking us for as products to be delivered?

- If they are asking for something other than where we think they can win, should we pursue that market?

I have posted before that it is possible to find a VP at a large carrier that supports pretty much any view on how the network should go forward.  We have seen many times that Service Providers will ask for things that they never deploy in a meaningful way (IMS anyone?).  Where is the critical thinking going on inside the vendors about what they make?


TomNolle 1/27/2015 | 2:00:18 PM
Re: Maybe Smallness is a Good Thing! I'm not surprised because it's difficult, Seven, but because it's taken a small vendor to illustrate that you can do NFV well and thoroughly with largely open tools and a modest amount of time and effort.  It makes me wonder how many larger vendors have simply bagged the effort because they want to focus on profits for the current quarter, protect their incumbent positions, or for other reasons.  I agree completely with your point on the IT linkage.  If you look at Overtures' material (they gave me a deck with fifty slides) it shows the IT elements they've pulled in to make this work.  As you say, why don't vendors all pay some attention to the IT world?
brooks7 1/27/2015 | 1:53:06 PM
Re: Maybe Smallness is a Good Thing! Tom,

Why are you surprised?

I think we implemented VM turn-up/tear-down with a bit of automation in about 3 months with 1 guy full time and 1 guy 1/2 time for our spam filter.  We already had a license registration mechanism, so adding yet another box to our network was really easy.

Boxes (not systems) are really easy to turn into Virtual Appliances.  Go take a look at lots of IT appliances and you will find you can get them as a VM.  For example (the kings of buy another box) https://www.barracuda.com/solutions/virtual.

I keep coming back to this...why do we not pay more attention to what is going on in the IT business?


TomNolle 1/27/2015 | 1:33:42 PM
Maybe Smallness is a Good Thing! It's amazing that a little company like this can deliver such a broad NFV strategy.  They even offer a pathway for OSS/BSS/NMS integration that's credible as a pathway to broad improvements in operations efficiency.  The question is whether they're big enough to be taken seriously and whether they want a broad NFV engagement that would pull them away from the Carrier Ethernet stuff that's their actual business.
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