Orange Unveils NFV-Based Offering for SMBs

PARIS -- MPLS SDN World Congress -- Orange Business Services has revealed details of a new offering for small and midsized businesses (SMBs) that makes use of SDN and NFV technologies and is due to become available under the EasyConnect brand.

The new EasyConnect offering has already been demonstrated in a live network and will allow the French operator's customers to set up and manage an IP-VPN as well as firewalls, web content filtering and other services through what Orange Business Services describes as a "self-care portal."

Taking advantage of the new offering, customers should be able to get new services up and running in as little as a minute, according to Orange's Stephane Litkowski, and to disable them just as quickly.

Announcing the development at this week's MPLS SDN World Congress in Paris, Litowski said the next steps would involve adapting the enterprise offering based on early customer feedback.

Litkowski is also working on connecting the self-care portal to its billing system, acknowledging that virtualization in the OSS area is a "challenge."

Orange's latest product appears to be the culmination of a project that began back in mid-2013 when the operator began testing NFV and SDN technologies, setting itself a target of launching a service for "real customers" by April this year.

"We had to break down some organizational silos and blend skills from different areas to develop this quickly," says Litkowski in discussing the challenges that Orange faced. "But we also had to ensure it would be simple enough to be manageable."

Although sites will still need equipment, routers will have more "plug-and-play" functionality, with Orange moving value-added services like firewalling more deeply into the network.

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The operator has been working with a range of NFV and SDN specialists on the new service, with Activiti looking after the orchestration layer and UBiqube Plc providing the VNF (virtual network functions) manager.

Orange is using Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR)'s Contrail solution as the SDN controller and collaborating with Versa Networks on VNF, while Juniper is also contributing firewalling and web content filtering expertise.

Indeed, the solution appears to provide a perfect example of the multi-vendor approach that has become almost synonymous with the NFV and SDN vision.

Nevertheless, Orange is investigating ways of simplifying the offering, according to Litowski, which suggests there could be some kind of vendor shake-up in future.

Orange is one of a number of service providers attending the Paris event that hope to become more agile and efficient through the use of NFV and SDN technologies. (See Bandwidth On-Demand Raises Business Model Concerns.)

Michael Howard, a principal analyst with Infonetics Research Inc. , says a need for more service agility is operator's number one incentive for investing in NFV, with 93% of operators globally indicating they will deploy NFV technologies in a recent Infonetics survey.

Howard also notes that virtual enterprise CPEs represent the top "use case" for NFV deployment, pointing out that Colt Technology Services Group Ltd has until now been the only player offering a commercial service over a virtual enterprise CPE. (See Colt Bigs Up the Benefits of Virtual CPE .)

"Why isn't everyone else doing it? Because it's not easy," he says. "The UK's BT Group has plans in this area but it's not quite there yet. It is still working on a lot of the details."

Orange's announcement this week could prove to be the catalyst for more service provider innovations in the months ahead.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

Michel 3/20/2015 | 6:30:16 AM
Congrats ! Congrats to Orange for this major step in the domain of SDN/NFV !
Mitch Wagner 3/18/2015 | 8:38:26 PM
Re: Keeps coming up It isn't so much a matter of SMBs implementing NFV in their internal systems, as carriers using NFV to serve SMBs.
danielcawrey 3/18/2015 | 8:21:08 PM
Re: Keeps coming up I wouldn't peg the SMB market as the target for NFV. But maybe I just am not carefully paying attention to the landscape. 

It would seem to me midsize or larger organizations would be prime candidates for implementing NFV into existing systems.

Why go SMB?
Mitch Wagner 3/18/2015 | 4:02:46 PM
Keeps coming up This issue of carriers using NFV and SDN to appeal to SMBs has been coming up on LR a few times lately. Earlier, Ray Le Maistre wrote about how the technology might help carriers crack the tough SMB market. And Cisco cited penetrating the SMB market as a motivator behind big  deals with DT, Telstra, and Telecom Italia.
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