Adtran has joined the race to provide service providers and their customers with virtualized network functions (VNFs) with the launch of a virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) package that bundles multiple functions into a single VNF and signals its broader New IP intentions. (See Adtran Streamlines Virtual Network Functionality .)
The vendor, best known for its fixed access network infrastructure, has flirted with virtualization before, having already made it clear, albeit in earnings call commentary rather than planned announcements, that it plans to offer virtualized/white box versions of some of its core products. (See Adtran Is Developing White Box GPON Tech.)
Now the company is flying the virtualization flag above its HQ, issuing a press release Wednesday that signals general support for SDN, NFV, open API integration and open source technology developments in general. (See Adtran Outlines Support for SDN, NFV.)
Senior product marketing executive Kurt Raaflaub says the vendor, which is keen to be seen as a member of the virtualization club, will be making a series of announcements around its support for programmable networks in the coming months, with the launch of its VNF solution suite as the first step.
Essentially, Adtran has developed virtualized versions of functions it already has in its physical product portfolio, such as routers, firewalls, enterprise session border controllers (eSBC) and voice quality monitoring (VQM) tools.
Chris Thompson, director of product management in charge of all customer premises equipment developments at Adtran, says this keeps things very simple for end users, particularly the many small and medium-sized businesses that use Adtran CPE. "There is no new learning curve for customers in terms of interoperability, the protocols being used and so on," he says. "It's the same capabilities, just in software."
Like other traditional vendors, Adtran is offering each function as a standalone VNF that can be deployed alongside VNFs from other suppliers. But in response to customer requests, says Thompson, the vendor can bundle together multiple functions into a single, integrated VNF package, that the Adtran man says will reduce complexity and require fewer IT resources than if the functions were deployed as separate VNFs. He notes, "Customers said to us that they they already use all of these functions together already, so why break them up?"
"This isn't about vendor lock-in," Thompson adds. "This is bundling functionality to make things easy just as we have been doing in hardware. We totally support best-of-breed and make our functions available as standalone VNFs."
Thompson says the VNFs are available for trials now and will become generally available in the fourth quarter. Some early trials are already underway, he adds. "What we have learned is that the environments from service provider to service provider are very different -- there is no standard way to approach this yet, so there is a certain amount of hand-holding to figure out orchestration and VNF instantiation."
To help with that Adtran has developed its own NFV infrastructure (NFVi) platform for testing and trial purposes, though Thompson says there's no reason why the NFVi -- which is based on OpenStack, Open vSwitch and DPDK (Data Plane Development Kit) capabilities running on x86 servers -- could not be adopted in a live network. "We can help a service provider get their virtual environment up and running," he says.
Of course, Adtran faces stiff competition when it comes to winning virtualization deals. While its customer base of hundreds of access network operators in North America and Europe will be its prime target, it is playing catch-up in the VNF and NFVi market with key rivals such as Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), which is making great strides in the virtual CPE sector through its Nuage Networks subsidiary, and Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (See Will Nokia Appreciate AlcaLu's Nuage? and Huawei, China Telecom Claim Virtual CPE First.)
And as our recent vendor survey showed, there are already many major names in the market already offering multiple VNFs alongside systems integration and other associated support services: Of the 11 vendors that responded to our survey, eight said they are developing a virtualized CPE enterprise router/switch, and they're not alone. (See Vendor Selection Survey: New Criteria for the New IP Era, RAD Demonstrates vCPE Solution at BTE and Overture Builds on NFV Foundation.)
Separately, Adtran has also announced that it is now supporting more than 200 gigabit broadband deployments with its access equipment. (See Adtran Powers More Than 200 Gigabit Communities.)
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading