NFV is just about the hottest term in telecom these days, so it's not surprising that the new Leading Lights category for most innovative NFV product strategy drew so many entries from vendors of all types.
It's early days for NFV but without R&D investment and innovation from the vendor sector the network operators would not be making as much progress as they are.
So let's look at the finalists.
Affirmed Networks Inc. has been working on its product, the Mobile Content Cloud solution, for about three years and the fruits of its labor became visible during the timeframe for these awards. The solution, which is a consolidated but scalable and "completely virtual" Evolved Packet Core (EPC) runs on a single, virtual hardware instance.
The company claims the solution outperforms legacy and other virtual systems, something made possible "through the utilization of advanced chipsets and the unique architecture we have designed from the ground up to possess the highest levels of reliability and performance."
Word has spread: The vendor says it now has more than 20 customers and is engaged in more than 40 other trials.
- CEO Chat With Hassan Ahmed, Affirmed Networks
- LG U+ Deploys NFV With Affirmed Networks
- Telekom Austria Builds Multi-Vendor NFV 4G Core
- Transatel Deploys Affirmed Networks Platform
Alianza Corp. 's Hosted NFV VoIP solution "builds on the elastic growth and service agility of NFV and delivers it via the cloud with a SaaS-based business model," states the company. The system, which is a "complete virtualized VoIP solution," is provided with a "100% success-based OPEX business model, eliminating CAPEX and reducing risk. This also allows smaller service providers an affordable and fast path to the benefits of a NFV-based voice solution," notes the company.
In 2014, Alianza "re-engineered" the solution "with an elastic NFV technology core based on OpenStack. We built our own orchestration and scripting layer to rapidly build VNFs in minutes and an entire voice network in an hour."
- Alianza Powers Voice for Spanish Fork Community Network
- Dish's Wireless Fate to Be Sealed Next Week
- Alianza's Cloud Spreads to Canada
At the heart of the Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) NFV strategy is Agility Matrix, a cloud-based on-demand solution that aims to help service providers compete in a software-centric world by enabling them to "deliver next-generation managed enterprise services using Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) with an innovative pay-as-you earn business model." According to Ciena, Agility Matrix pioneers "a new business model for the acquisition, distribution, consumption and payment of VNFs."
It comprises: Director, an operations management and orchestration engine that coordinates the purchase, distribution and delivery of virtual network functions (VNFs); and VNF Market, an online marketplace where enterprise network managers will be able to shop for third-party VNFs, with the ability to buy usage licenses of varying lengths as they see they need for appliances, network services and other applications.
Ciena has been building an ecosystem of VNF vendors to provide a range of competing VNFs for service providers to choose from: The vendor tests and integrates every VNF to simplify the onboarding process and tests the hardware that offers "optimum performance for the VNFs."
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) has been developing its virtualization strategy for the past few years and it all came together in 2014 when it unveiled a strategy that combined NFV, SDN and open source and took the number of VNFs it offers beyond 50.
The vendor claims it can differentiate itself though a number of strategic components, namely "multi-domain and multi-vendor services orchestration, automation and customer self-service, and the ability to establish a simple and sustainable data abstraction model."
The vendor adds: "Another key aspect of our product strategy is adopting a software business model for key capabilities… [and] we have aligned our consumption and pricing models with how customers want to buy including as individual piece parts, integrated solutions or even 'as-a-service' models."
Cisco's approach to NFV was put to the test earlier this year when EANTC put the vendor's offering through a series of validation exercises. The EANTC team "were able to verify that Cisco's virtualization solution is real… Cisco's Cloud VPN appears to adhere to the NFV architecture… The Cisco solution works with at least one third-party device and uses free software and standardized interfaces, as defined by the IETF, to orchestrate and manage services."
- Validating Cisco's Service Provider Virtualization & Cloud Portfolio
- How EANTC Tested Cisco's Virtualization Solutions
- Cisco Lab Test Validates New IP World
- Cisco Ready for More SDN & Cloud Tests
- Cisco to Buy Hot Startup Tail-f for $175M
Cyan Inc. 's approach to the market, with its Blue Planet strategy, is to focus on multivendor capabilities. "Blue Planet's multivendor, multi-domain strategy is unique in that it differs completely from that of large incumbent suppliers… [that] are aligning themselves to offer the 'full NFV stack,' including servers, the virtual infrastructure manager (VIM), NFVO and VNFs, not to mention switches, routers and other physical devices marketed by (competing) internal business units."
Cyan has focused on providing agnostic service orchestration. "This fully open and programmable strategy is crucial for network operators as it allows them to freely choose best-in-breed components when designing their services, as well as to operationalize them more quickly and for lower cost." In addition, it provides "a more cohesive and robust solution capable of orchestrating physical and virtual resources from end-to-end across the telco cloud and the WAN."
That position clearly resonated with CenturyLInk, which is to base future production deployments of NFV services on Cyan's Blue Planet system. It also attracted Ciena.
- Ciena's Cyan Buy: It's All About the Software
- CenturyLink Lands on Cyan's Blue Planet
- Cyan's CenturyLink Win Built on Experience, Flexibility
- Cyan Debuts Planet Orchestrate to Manage Physical & Virtual Network Resources
EnterpriseWeb LLC has developed "the enabling technology behind CloudNFV, the first approved ETSI NFV Proof-of-Concept." It is an integrated management and orchestration (MANO) solution "delivered as a software appliance. It provides a Northbound API to the OSS/BSS, which exposes a catalog of virtual functions, network resources and deployment options. The platform takes orders, reports service and resource state, and dynamically enforces SLAs for end-to-end lifecycle management, while hiding implementation complexity."
According to EnterpriseWeb, it "enables carriers to expedite testing of NFV and SDN use-cases at low cost and allows solutions to be rolled-out incrementally, based on success, to mitigate risk and promote non-disruptive transformation, accelerating time to market with new solutions."
In June 2014, CloudNFV was recognized by TM Forum as the 'Most Innovative Catalyst' project at the TM Forum Live! event.
HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) (HP)'s approach to NFV is to make life easier for network operators. Its OpenNFV program (not to be confused with OPNFV!) is designed to help telcos "accelerate innovation and launch services faster, more easily and cost-effectively through the virtualization of telecommunications core networks and network functions."
It comprises an "open standards–based, end-to-end platform, including server, software, orchestration and networking technologies, carrier grade HP Helion OpenStack technology, services and expertise. This offers carriers a ready-to-deploy solution that can enable the transformation from legacy networks to an NFV- and software defined network (SDN)-enabled infrastructure."
The approach is "built around openness and standards… [to] enable other telco ecosystem vendors to introduce new innovations on top of the HP OpenNFV platform, including network equipment providers, independent software vendors and systems integrators. This allows telecommunications providers to choose different components from the vendors that best meet their needs."
Telefónica clearly likes HP's approach, as it has chosen OpenNFV as the bedrock of its NFV strategy.
- Telefónica Taps HP for Unica NFV
- Telefónica Selects HP OpenNFV Platform for UNICA Infrastructure
- HP's NFV Director Merges Physical, Virtual
- HP Expands NFV Solutions
NFV has given Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) a massive new business opportunity in the communications networking market and it has responded with its Open Network Platform (Intel ONP), a reference architecture strategy that "advances open source and open standards to accelerate SDN and NFV adoption. The Intel ONP Reference Architecture creates a strong foundation for the telco, cloud and enterprise providers to leverage and to deploy NFV."
The ONP strategy comprises "four separate initiatives that feed and complement each other," according to Intel. Those four are: TO be involved with and contribute to various SDN/NFV industry consortia such as OPNFV, OpenStack, OpenDaylight, Open vSwitch, ETSI, ONF, DPDK and others; Offer its ONP Reference Architecture platform, which combines hardware and open source software components, designed to meet ETSI NFV ISG specification, with a Standard-High-Volume-Server (SHVS) based on Intel Architecture and a software stack composed of released open source software ingredients at its heart; Enable an open ecosystem through its Intel Network Builder partnership program; and collaborate with Network Builder partners to establish proof points.
Intel ONP combines multiple key open source standards such as OpenStack, OpenDaylight, KVM, Open vSwitch, Linux and DPDK "into one complete framework that can be tested, benchmarked and evaluated across combinations of ETSI-based NFVi, VIM and VNF solutions."
- Intel Open Network Platform Server
- Genband Joins Intel's Network Builders Club
- Open NFV Group Uncloaks Its Platform Plan
With its "innovation portfolio," Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) is aiming to "open up a slew of new business opportunities for customers that didn’t exist just a year ago due to manual, complex operations and inflexible, rigid physical infrastructure." The vendor's strategy is to "deliver an end-to-end virtualization platform that empowers our customers to capitalize on market opportunities, perform the evolution with a cost effective model that scales as revenues increase and enables business agility. Virtualization creates a more flexible network that is more adaptable to change by reducing costs and decreasing time to market. Examples may include dynamically adding the proper levels of security at the right time or centralizing physical CPE to reduce costs."
To that end, Juniper has been rolling out a number of new virtualization products and solutions, including: vMX, a virtual router that delivers feature parity with our best-selling flagship routing platform, the MX 3D Universal Edge router; vSRX, which provides Juniper's complete and integrated virtual security solution with AppSecure 2.0; Contrail Cloud, which offers a turnkey SDN and NFV solution for rapid service chaining and automation; The NorthStar Controller, which gives service providers visibility and SDN control for WAN optimization; Junosphere Cloud, which enables a virtualized environment where users can create and run networks; and ACX Series routers, which are delivered with VM compatibility to extend virtualization functions closer to end users.
The Nokia Networks Radio Cloud Solution is the vendor's key effort to help operators deploy cloud capabilities in their radio access network (RAN).
Building on its Telco Cloud portfolio, it "introduces a new architecture to maximize radio performance in the cloud. Along with virtualizing radio functions such as LTE eNB L2 processing, LTE eNB L3 processing, MME and GW functionality, the architecture allows for additional virtualization, such as Wi-Fi controllers and virtual RNCs and vBSCs. The key innovation is driven by a multi-layer architecture which pioneers the use of Ethernet fronthaul and any combination of distributed and centralized deployments."
To achieve that, "processing capacity is allocated from almost anywhere in the network, such as an adjacent cell or a centralized data center, to where it is needed most for coordination and capacity. The multi-layer approach supports distributed and centralized deployments, or a combination of both, using multiple fronthaul types, including Ethernet."
The vendor has designed its Radio Cloud Solution to be ready for the upcoming demands of 5G core and radio demands.
- Nokia Offers Virtual OSS, VNF Service
- Nokia Networks expands telco cloud portfolio, advances towards radio cloud
Overture Networks Inc. 's Ensemble Open Services Architecture (OSA) is a "software orchestration and management platform strategy designed to help communication service providers (CSPs) and mobile operators become more profitable" by enabling them to "achieve the same level of performance with network functions virtualization (NFV) as they experience with hardened, physical networks, and to realize quick and cost-effective new service creation for revenue growth."
Overture has enhanced OSA in the past year with Ensemble Service Intelligence (ESI), a "big data tool for capturing heterogeneous data from multiple sources, and analyzing and correlating that data," and Ensemble Carrier Ethernet VNF (ECE), a virtual system booster that provides line-rate performance of up to 10 GigE.
The solution also includes "open, extensible carrier-class NFV service lifecycle orchestration, management and controller solutions -- Ensemble Service Orchestrator (ESO) and Ensemble Network Controller (ENC)."
- Overture Builds on NFV Foundation
- Overture's NFV Ecosystem Attracts New Members
- Overture Adds Hardware to Its NFV Pitch
- Overture Trials NFV Software With Hidden Punch
RAD Data Communications
RAD Data Communications Ltd. 's NFV pitch, dubbed Distributed NFV (D-NFV), is all about delivering a solution that makes sense to a wide area network operator such as a telco. "While conventional NFV focuses on virtualization at the network core or data centers, Distributed NFV allows virtualized network functions (VNFs) to be placed wherever they are most effective and least expensive, including at the customer edge. This practical approach also allows business, mobile and wholesale service providers to create much needed value for their customers by quickly launching NFV-based services without up-front investments in data center redesign or extensive network upgrades, thereby minimizing the risk involved."
Naturally, RAD has the technology that can help with this approach. "RAD’s D-NFV-enabled networking devices integrate a powerful L2/L3 NID/NTU and a field-pluggable x86 NFV module for hosting VNFs. These devices are managed by RAD's D-NFV Orchestrator or any third-party orchestrator using standard interfaces, and support various implementation options for virtualized CPE (vCPE) and for VNF chaining to meet agility, performance, security, and cost needs."
To help take the D-NFV concept to a broader audience, RAD formed the D-NFV Alliance, an ecosystem of application developers and system integrators. The vendor tests and certifies Alliance partners' VNFs, as well as open-source applications, "to make them available to service providers and system integrators around the globe via RAD's D-NFV-enabled products."
- RAD Launches vCPE Platform for Hosting VNFs
- RAD Expands D-NFV Alliance
- RAD Pushes Distributed NFV Forward
Talk to the folks at Wind River Systems Inc. and they'll tell you that their Titanium Server product strategy has paid off.
Titanium Server is a "comprehensive carrier grade NFV infrastructure software solution" that has been designed from the ground up to support the needs of telcos and of NFV partners such as HP and China Mobile.
Wind River has been pushing its open source credentials to gain traction for Titanium Server, participating in and contributing to the likes of OPNFV, OpenStack, Open Virtualization Alliance, ETSI NFV ISG and the Open Networking Foundation (ONF).
Its strategic partnership with HP, for the HP Helion OpenStack offering, paid off when Telefonica announced that HP's OpenNFV, including Helion OpenStack, will be the foundation for the operator's Unica platform.
- Wind River, China Mobile Team on NFV
- Altiostar & Wind River Develop NFV C-RAN
- Wind River Expands Its NFV Ecosystem
- Wind River Launches NFV 'App Store'
The Leading Lights 2015 winners and newest class of Hall of Fame inductees will be unveiled at the Leading Lights awards dinner, which will be held the evening of Monday, June 8, at Chicago's Field Museum. The star-studded soirée will follow a day of special workshops covering topics such as SDN, 5G and Carrier Ethernet for the Cloud that take place ahead of Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which this year is being held at the McCormick Place Convention Center on June 9 and 10. (Details and the agenda are on our show site, Big Telecom Event.)
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading