NFV Strategies

CenturyLink's ABN Buy Is Software Harbinger

CenturyLink's acquisition of Active Broadband's software assets for deploying SDN and NFV at the broadband edge is a clear indication of the key role software development resources are playing in the virtualization era. For an undisclosed sum, the network operator is acquiring software resources and the 13-engineer development team that created them, to help hit its announced target of 100% virtualization of its IP network by 2018. (See CenturyLink Sees 100% Virtual IP Net by 2018 and CenturyLink Buys Assets of Active Broadband.)

Frank Miller, chief architect for CenturyLink, tells Light Reading that Active Broadband has an OpenDaylight-based software-defined network controller and stack, and a broadband network gateway, also virtualized, which will be incorporated into CenturyLink's Programmable Services Backbone, the SDN-based network over which the network operator will deliver new business services, including virtualized functions.

"Both these pieces are abstracted and both of these we will put to use right away," he says. "This just hardens and strengthens our NFV-SDN development capabilities. When we looked at the ABN folks, we knew they have some very specific knowledge and very specific products and it would aggressively get it to our goal of an SDN and NFV framework, so this is a really solid acquisition for us to getting to our full goal of virtualization by the end of 2018."

Miller admits this is the kind of acquisition that makes sense in a software-defined era but wouldn't have been possible back when ABN's broadband gear was more hardware-based. The company pivoted its product portfolio as the industry shifted to SDN/NFV, he notes and it is that software expertise that CenturyLink is acquiring. ABN introduced its SDN-based broadband network gateway back in 2014.

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That said, the ABN team, which Miller describes as "a globally recognized group of engineers," also has hardware expertise in the sense they were engaged in the enterprise router world and know what customer expectations are for reliability and scalability.

"So they come with that magic mix of knowledge -- they know what it takes to build an enterprise grade router, which is very important to us as an enterprise grade carrier," but they also have the software expertise to help CenturyLink work at the pace of software lifecycles in delivering new products and functionality, he notes.

The Boston-based team will be plugged into CenturyLink's operations where they best fit, with no immediate plans to disperse them physically, Miller says. In addition to network edge use cases, he sees the software technology in play in northbound applications as well, meaning in the network control space.

Active Broadband Networks no longer exists as a company and has sold off previous assets, including its Operations and Support Systems technology, which was sold to Volaris Group.

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

danielcawrey 7/1/2016 | 1:16:38 PM
Valuable This sounds like a pretty valuable buy for CenturyLink. The company gets its hands on some serious assets in terms of human capital. This seems like a really smart strategic move given the movement towards SDN. 
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