NFV Strategies

Masergy to Launch Global Enterprise NFV Service

Masergy plans next week to launch NFV services for its customers, replacing several pieces of customer premises equipment (CPE) with a single general-purpose server at each customer location.

Currently Masergy Communications Inc. has to ship several appliances out to each customer premises, one each for services such as network interface device (NID), router and firewall. "The ability to compartmentalize those, collapse them into a single device and manage them centrally is integral," Masergy CTO Tim Naramore told Light Reading.

Many of Masergy's customers are located outside the US, which makes the problem more complicated, Naramore says. "If you're shipping four devices, that's four devices that have to go through customs, and arrive at the same time. Four to make sure nobody unplugs them to plug in the popcorn machine," he says.

"We've got customers in some pretty faraway locations. You want to reduce the number of truck rolls in Mongolia," Naramore says. Consolidating devices makes life simpler for Masergy's customers' IT staff, who may have to send a person to a branch location for service turn-up.

The NFV services are called Virtual f(n), and Masergy plans to announce them next week. They comprise "software-based network functions such as routing and firewall protection that provide an alternative to dedicated network appliances such as routers," a company spokesperson said in an email. Overture provided "foundational technology that we used to develop our services."

Next week's launch follows Masergy's introduction of an earlier vCPE, the Cloud Router, in February. (See Masergy's Cloud Router Solves CPE Dilemma.)

Masergy is a privately owned global networking provider headquartered in Plano, Texas, with 40 PoPs serving customers in 77 countries. The company has more than 1,000 customers to which it provides unified communications, as well as about 750 to which it delivers pure networking. The average customer spends $25,000 monthly, says Naramore.

Naramore brags about Masergy's customer satisfaction, with a 66 Net Promoter score. The industry average Net Promoter score is in the teens, and some of Masergy's big competitors have scores in the single digits, he says. (By comparison, Costco had the best overall NPS score for 2014, at 79.) Masergy ties employee bonuses to the score.

Masergy was a finalist for the Light Reading Leading Lights awards, in the category Most Innovative Enterprise Service. (See Masergy's Cloud Router Solves CPE Dilemma.)

Masergy turned to Overture Networks Inc. for the vCPE platform. Masergy has been using Overture equipment for its Masergy Intelligent Bridge, customer premises equipment that maintains quality of service and delivers Ethernet handoffs regardless of access methodology, Naramore says.

Overture was also a finalist for Leading Lights, in the categories Best New Product (Telecom) and Most Innovative NFV Product Strategy (Vendor). (See Leading Lights 2015 Finalists: Best New Product (Telecom) and Leading Lights 2015 Finalists: Most Innovative NFV Product Strategy (Vendor).)

Masergy looked to NFV to provide the flexibility needed to consolidate several services in a single device. Masergy tested products from several different vendors, and decided on Overture. "Overture matched the vision we had to take the customer premise device we had to have anyway and add an NFV stack to it," Naramore says. Cost reduction is secondary -- the primary goals are to "decrease the footprint and increase the agility."

A big part of Overture's appeal is that its platform is open. Masergy isn't just limited to Overture's own VNFs; they can use VNFs from other vendors. Indeed, the first version of Masergy's product will offer a Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) router and Fortinet Inc. firewall. (See So How Do You Test a Virtual Router? and Swisscom Secures Its Data Centers With Fortinet.)

Follow-up releases through the end of the year will include additional VNFs, on-boarded through a VNF store or app store run by Masergy, including session border controllers, media gateways, WAN accelerators, additional firewall options and open source options to branded products, as well as porting Masergy's own security software to the VNF architecture.

Overture also achieved high performance. They were "the only vendor in our labs that achieved line rate for multiple VNFs," Naramore says. (See Overture Claims NFV Performance Benchmark.)

NFV can help communications providers increase agility, but it doesn't eliminate the need for customer premises equipment, says Overture CTO and co-founder Prayson Pate. Security functions, particularly encryption, need to be done at the custom premises, or else you're sending unencrypted traffic over the WAN or public Internet. Likewise, QoS needs to be done at the edge to avoid sending traffic back-and-forth unnecessarily between the edge and core.

"There are cases where you have benefits at the edge of the network that you can't have when a service is centrally located," Pate says.

Find out more about network functions virtualization on Light Reading's NFV channel.

Overture sees the Masergy deployment as an example -- and validation -- of "pure-play" NFV. Rather than deploying proprietary NFV on a custom NID, Overture and Masergy are deploying standard software on standard servers, for additional flexibility.

But Masergy just sees the deployment as an example of filling a business need.

"For us it was important to not just have something that was new and cool, but something that solved a customer problem," Naramore says.

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— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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