Software provider Benu Networks is revamping its Virtual Broadband Network Gateway (vBNG) with SASE and 5G wireless/wireline convergence capabilities.
vBNG is a disaggregated network gateway for fixed wireline and WiFi access networks and, with this new update, now supports a cloud-native environment, says Benu Networks. The broadband network gateway is supported by Benu Networks' SD-Edge Platform, a networking software service which disaggregates the hardware and software as well as the control and user planes.
"The BNG is in a strategic location for the carrier because it authenticates the subscriber connections, it sets up policies for the subscribers and the bandwidth they can get, so it's considered the service edge for customer services such as television and parental controls," explains Michael McFarland, VP of product management and marketing for Benu Networks.
With more remote workers frequently utilizing video conference calls, the use of streaming services increasing, and more students learning from home, McFarland says: "This BNG function in the network is at a critical point now where [service providers] need something that's more flexible, and can easily scale without a lot of extra cost."
Benu Networks says its SD-Edge Platform connects to over 25 million WLAN access points and CPE gateways, and handles more than 7 Petabytes of data daily. In addition, the update to vBNG will provide its operator customers with 5G Wireless Wireline Convergence (WWC) as well as Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) features.
McFarland says Benu Networks is in the process of trialing its new 5G Access Gateway function, which provides 5G features such as network slicing and low-latency services to fixed networks and Wi-Fi. In addition, the gateway function is "a way to manage the fixed network subscribers with your 5G core," says McFarland. "You now have the ability to provide a more unified experience across fixed and mobile."
In terms of its SASE services, Benu Networks' approach provides carriers with the means to deliver SASE capabilities within their own network, versus over-the-top via the public Internet, says McFarland. Benu Networks also provides security features such as firewalls, deep packet inspection and content filtering, and partners with third-party providers such as Fortinet and Palo Alto.
"The SD-Edge Platform uses some of the same protocols as on the mobile side to…centralize your control plane and push the user plane that handles all the data traffic out closer to the customers," says McFarland. "Carriers want to do this to reduce the backhaul costs, put content distribution further out, and the service edge is now closer to the customers for a better user experience."
However, Mauricio Sanchez, research director for Dell'Oro Group, says running SASE within a single network would work better for smaller enterprises.
"For a smaller enterprise living within a single carrier's domain, Benu can do some interesting things from the perspective of pushing the SASE edge closer to where the applications or where the end points and end users live," Sanchez says. "For larger enterprises on a global scale, that's a more challenging scenario for Benu because federation between carrier networks doesn't really exist."
In addition, Sanchez says Benu Networks' take on SASE is aimed at service providers that would want to mix together different SASE features to develop their own platform for their enterprise customers. While he isn't aware of any service providers building their own SASE services yet – currently the larger service providers are seeking out turnkey SASE services – Sanchez does expect to see more momentum on the build-your-own SASE service approach later this year. Sanchez says smaller service providers may be interested in the DIY SASE approach in the nearer term.
"With SASE, Benu Networks is more of a building block to allow someone to ultimately get into providing a more complete solution," says Sanchez. "Benu's software provides the control plane capability that is quite difficult to get off the ground if you don't already have some technology primitives at your disposal. It's a great way for someone in the carrier or service provider who wants to build a more purpose-built SASE solution where they're mixing and matching SASE elements."
Founded in 2010, Benu Networks has about 70 employees and customers such as Comcast; Liberty Global; and other tier 1, 2 and 3 service providers. McFarland says Benu Networks' competitors in the BNG space include Nokia, Juniper, Huawei and Cisco.
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— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading