Cisco has unveiled the latest component of its Evolved Services Platform (ESP), a new service provisioning and management tool designed to encompass multiple network types, multiple vendors, and even a combination of physical and virtualized infrastructure.
Launched today at TM Forum Live!, the new Evolved Programmable Network (EPN) Manager is the latest of three key developments in Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO)'s unfolding ESP solution strategy. The company has already introduced its WAN Automation solution, and its Network Services Orchestrator. (See Cisco Intros Automated WAN Management and Cisco Boasts NFV Trial With NTT DoCoMo.)
The addition of the EPN Manager delivers a dedicated provisioning and service assurance platform that gives operators the ability to configure and control network services through a single unified interface.
Cisco emphasizes that the EPN Manager works across multiple network domains including packet optical transport, Carrier Ethernet, managed WiFi, and data center. Equally important, however, is the fact that the tool allows providers to introduce virtualized functions into their networks that can then be managed right alongside the physical elements. In that way, operators can start to experiment with SDN and NFV incrementally without abandoning legacy architecture.
As Greg Smith, Cisco's senior manager for service provider marketing, explained in an interview, "Carriers are just starting to peel back the onion on NFV, [asking] 'how am I going to provision and manage and troubleshoot those services when I have physical and virtual [infrastructure]?' And they haven't figured that out yet. And that's very much where EPN Manager is going to come in and help resolve that issue."
In the near term, Cisco is also targeting the telecom migration from older TDM-based networks to IP as a primary use case for the EPN Manager. The solution is well-suited to network transitions both because it works across diverse technology types, and because it operates with both Cisco and non-Cisco equipment.
"Cisco's been forced to accept that we're not the only game in town," noted Smith. "Right now initially we're focused on supporting some of our Cisco solutions … but [the system is] architected Day 1 to support other vendors."
Currently, Cisco is testing its EPN Manager with Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) and several other unnamed customers. Verizon hasn't exactly given its blessing to the Cisco technology yet, but it has acknowledged that the offering is the type of solution the industry needs for future service deployments.
"Verizon is moving to a next-generation 100G metro network in the US that will deliver improved scalability, functionality and efficiency," said Glenn Wellbrock, Verizon's director of optical transport network architecture, in a statement.
"As part of its tests of the Cisco Network Convergence System, Verizon is evaluating the new EMS/NMS solution Cisco is bringing to market. We expect multi-layer next-generation network management solutions, like the Cisco EPN Manager, will enable Verizon to increase business agility and operational efficiencies through automated device operations, fast provisioning and service assurance."
Cisco has also earned credibility for its ESP framework as a whole because of testing that Light Reading commissioned with the independent European Advanced Networking Test Center AG (EANTC) earlier this year. In two weeks of intensive evaluation, EANTC was able to validate capabilities of both the WAN Automation and Network Service Orchestrator solutions, and to verify the potential value they offer to customers. (See Validating Cisco's Service Provider Virtualization & Cloud Portfolio.)
In a final note, the latest product announcement from Cisco follows other company news this week illustrating a radical transition in Cisco leadership. With new CEO Chuck Robbins set to take the reins from John Chambers on July 26, two presidents from the company, Rob Lloyd and Gary Moore, have announced they will step down on July 25. CTO Padmasree Warrior is also reportedly planning her departure this summer. (See 2 Cisco Presidents Quit and Cisco CTO Warrior Is Out Too – Report.)
Cisco has changed its focus in recent years from solely promoting technology to promoting the business results that technology can achieve. The ongoing development of the Evolved Services Platform is part of that shift. Changes in leadership may also play a role in the future.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading