PARIS -- MPLS/SDN/NFV World Congress -- Orange Business Services is ready to embark on a larger-scale deployment of its network-as-a-service offering for small and midsized enterprises (SMEs) following successful trials of the technology last year.
The enterprise unit of French incumbent Orange (NYSE: FTE) unveiled details of the trial, which was carried out under the EasyConnect brand, during last year's MPLS/SDN/NFV World Congress in Paris, and it used this year's conference to provide an update on its activities. (See Orange Unveils NFV-Based Offering for SMBs.)
The service takes advantage of SDN and NFV technologies to let customers quickly set up and manage an IP-VPN, as well as firewalls, web content filtering and other services, using a self-care portal.
Citing "positive" customer feedback on the trial, Stephane Litkowski, a network architect with Orange Business Services , said the next step would be a more widespread deployment.
"The first services should be available by the end of the year worldwide and the service portfolio will increase over time," he told conference attendees this afternoon.
During the course of its EasyConnect trial, Orange appears to have replaced at least one of the suppliers it was originally using.
Last year, Litkowski indicated that UBiqube Plc was providing Orange's VNF (virtual network functions) manager, but the operator is now relying on Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN)'s Blue Planet technology for both orchestration and VNF management. "They are providing us with an interesting co-development approach and flexibility in terms of how we model services, which is really important," he said.
For the VIM (virtual infrastructure manager), Orange has been working with Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT), and it has stuck by Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR)'s Contrail technology for its SDN controller. "Juniper was renewed as a partner because it has a real strength of being able to dynamically attach services to IP-VPNs and provide dynamic routing between VPNs," said Litkowski.
Despite announcing plans for a more widespread service deployment, Litkowski flagged some major concerns about the business case for services based on SDN and NFV technologies.
One of the biggest costs Orange faces is on VNF licensing. According to Litkowski, there is still a "misalignment" between the way an operator wants to sell services and the manner in which vendors are providing licenses for the same services. "We need to find an agreement that is profitable for both parties," he said.
Orange is also looking at various options for reducing VNF costs, including running multiple services on the same VNF or container and introducing more open source technologies into the mix.
A related issue the operator faces is what Litkowski calls "servers license stacking," which is similarly driving up the cost of operations.
"We need to minimize the number of servers," said Litkowski. "That means looking at how many services can we put on a single server as well as using containers, more optimized code for VNFs and even open source controllers."
The Orange executive also complained about constraints caused by the current data center focus of most SDN and NFV products. "Sometimes you cannot run it over a WAN [wide area network], which is problematic," he explained. "We are pushing a network-focused approach that would allow us to share control and management resources in remote locations."
Echoing comments made earlier in the day by Colt Technology Services Group Ltd 's Nico Fischbach, Litkowski urged vendors to work together to avoid the possibility of faults in live virtualized networks.
During a morning conference presentation, Fischbach told vendors to get behind The New IP Agency (NIA), a not-for-profit initiative aimed at fostering the development of virtualized networks based on open-access principles. (See Colt Says NIA Can Help Speed Up NFV Rollout.)
Fischbach reckons that vendors working with the NIA could develop reference models that would speed up NFV deployment in future.
— Iain Morris, , News Editor, Light Reading