VNFs (Virtual Network Functions)

Verizon Wraps Ribbon Around Virtual SBCs

Verizon Enterprise Solutions today announced a new virtual services version of session border controller technology that will let businesses consume that function as a service, on a subscription basis, in support of virtualized unified communications. (See Verizon Adds Virtual SBCs.)

Verizon is working with Ribbon Communications technology on a cloud-based SBC-as-a-service offering. If the Ribbon name doesn't ring an immediate bell, think merger-of-rivals: Ribbon is what Sonus and GenBand came together to become. Verizon began the process pre-merger, working with Sonus.

The new addition to Verizon's Virtual Network Services portfolio recognizes that more businesses want to move to consuming UC as a service as well, paying as they go for software-based offerings rather than stacking up hardware on premises, says Rakendu Devdhar, product manager for Verizon's Virtual Network Services portfolio.

"Typically, customers have to buy appliance SBCs today, to be deployed on-prem, and it requires configuration to be sure it works with a PBX, where it is needed for security at the perimeter," he says in an interview. "By doing it in a cloud consumption model, customers can opt in or opt out, and have the service available in different regions as they need it. It gives them much greater flexibility."

To this point UC services have been "heavy capex based," he adds, but that is changing as UCaaS becomes more prevalent. Other operators including 8x8 Inc. (Nasdaq: EGHT), RingCentral Inc. and Fuse are already aggressively selling in this market, which will exceed $28 billion by 2021 according to Markets and Markets.

Initially, Verizon's SBCaaS will be cloud-based, and can be used on a standalone basis or service chained with its other virtual network services. By about mid-year, the operator expects to have a virtual CPE option as well, Devdhar says.

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In general, adding new VNSs is getting easier as the process for bringing new virtual network functions becomes more routine and Verizon has greater experience with its OpenStack-based platform, he adds. This particular addition proved challenging because of the RTC aspects.

"The SBCs are a particularly nasty breed because of the real-time communications piece," Devdhar comments. "It is very sensitive to packet loss, packet delay. So virtualizing this technology and running it on OpenStack as part of virtual network services, we had to do, in effect, a lot of tuning, if you will, just to get the performance to be exact because we are going off the Verizon branding and there is an expectation in the market as to the quality of service."

As a result, Verizon had to work with its software vendors and "tweak" OpenStack to preserve the real-time nature of the application.

One of the operator's next steps will be combining its SD-WAN and SBCaaS capabilities to better enable prioritization of voice traffic in the SD-WAN realm, he says.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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