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.)
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.)