Managed services provider Masergy Communications is on the forefront of a growing trend, deploying virtual CPE. That's currently considered one of the strongest business cases for network functions virtualization, because it can cut costs, simplify operations and speed service delivery all at the same time.
One thing Masergy Communications Inc. learned in deploying virtual CPE, however, is that it's a great solution for some applications but ultimately just one tool in a portfolio focused on customer needs and expectations. That's why application performance and underlying customer needs have to continue to drive network service strategies, regardless of where the technology trends are headed.
In other words, it's great to talk about NFV and SDN, as well as cloud services and more, but it's more important to deliver on customer needs in support of their applications.
Masergy's CTO Tim Naramore told our NFV Everywhere audience last week in Dallas that, even after working through the business and technical challenges to deploying virtual CPE, Masergy isn't out trying to sell its new solution everywhere, because that doesn't make sense. Its existing options -- traditional managed services using CPE on the customer site and cloud-based CPE -- are still robust parts of its portfolio as well. (See Masergy's Bold NFV Play Is Customer Driven and Masergy Casts Light on Divergent NFV Options.)
Masergy is a global services provider, and 70% of its customers have at least one international location. Many of them have a slew of international sites and are gaining more through acquisition. That's a real headache for a corporate IT/telecom manager, who has to be able to manage the diverse range of equipment, guarantee the compliance of that equipment and the managed service itself with a patchwork quilt of local laws and policies, while also trying to keep everything up, running and secure.
By giving those CIOs the ability to virtualize the network at its endpoints, Masergy allows them to drop-ship one piece of equipment which can then be configured remotely and updated or added to, as needed, Naramore said. The "get-started" virtualized product includes the most commonly required elements -- a network interface device with a virtualized router and firewall.
"This reduces their costs, requires less power, less installation hassle -- it's hugely convenient for the customer," he says.
An NFV solution also allows Masergy to deploy new things "at software speeds" rather than having to wait for new hardware, Naramore noted. But he chose to conclude his presentation with a reminder that a virtual CPE solution based on virtualized functions is just one tool in the toolkit. It doesn't necessarily work as well at a headquarters location or even a regional office, where more functions may be needed than are virtualized today, or where it doesn't make sense to rip out equipment that is currently meeting the customer needs just fine.
"The focus needs to be on empowering the customer -- letting them pick the solution that is right for them," Naramore says.
That seemingly obvious statement resonates in two ways today: First, the push has been to find the business case for NFV but even finding it doesn't make virtualization a universal goal. Second, meeting customer needs may vary among network operators, so the NFV solutions will vary also. What can't vary is the focus on the customer and using the newfound flexibility of software to hit the bulls-eye there. — Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading