NFV (Network functions virtualization)

Overture Trials NFV Software With Hidden Punch

Overture Networks is trialing an NFV software appliance designed to make it easier for service providers to create more flexible and inexpensive alternatives to managed business services. It struck me as a respectable but ordinary product announcement -- but the former chief architect of the CloudNFV initiative explained that it's actually a big deal.

The vE-CPE Ensemble Solution Pack, announced Tuesday, includes virtual branch office router, VPN, and firewall, with additional virtual network functions (VNFs) available as options. Carriers can deploy the software in a centralized environment like a data center or central office, or distribute the software to virtualization platforms on customer premises.

Overture Networks Inc. expects to roll out additional solution packs in the future.

The Solution Pack is built on Overture's Ensemble Service Orchestrator and Ensemble Network Controller, two pieces of its architecture for creating software-defined services at the metro services edge -- in other words, in service providers' enterprise customers' premises. (See Overture Unveils Orchestrator & Controller for NFV).

The orchestrator and controller use open APIs to make them deployable in any service provider architecture, together as a system or independently, Overture said.

The orchestrator uses a bundled OpenStack cloud controller to manage the virtual compute environment, including virtual machines, switches, and top-of-rack data center switches. The controller manages the physical wide area network traffic flows, but the orchestrator can also be integrated with other third-party network controllers.

The Ensemble Network Controller automates service creation, activation, device detection, fault management, and performance monitoring.

Ensemble OSA automates and manages both the physical carrier Ethernet and virtual infrastructure to help service providers introduce new revenue-generating services quickly and with agility, Overture says.

Overture introduced the Ensemble Open Service Architecture in March 2013, as a strategy to bring the benefits of the cloud to the metro edge. (See Overture Sets Up Its SDN Plan.)

The vE-CPE Ensemble Solution Pack bundles the orchestration and controller software with pre-integrated virtual functions for partners.

The Solution Pack is designed for service providers who want to deliver virtualized enterprise services but don't have the resources to evaluate and integrate individual components, D. Mark Durrett, VP Marketing at Overture Networks, told Light Reading. "What we're doing at Overture is doing the legwork for them," he said. "Today, service providers deploy hardware appliances on the customer site, often purpose-built, one for each service." These appliance require truck-installation, with support and maintenance headaches. "Lastly, if the service provider wants to upgrade or upsell the customers, they typically have to roll out another truck to upgrade the system."

Service providers would have the flexibility to, for example, offer a 30-day trial of a managed enterprise service without expensive hardware costs.

The CPE virtual appliance will be available in the second half of the year. It's being used in a trial by a Tier 1 service provider, and there are four proofs-of-concept being done by two Tier 1 service providers and two large CLECs.

So what's the big deal? I talked to Tom Nolle, a veteran industry consultant and the CEO and president of CIMI Corp. , who said he got a demo of the product. He disclosed that he's done some consulting for Overture, but only a little bit, and the last of that was a year ago.

Nolle told me that Overture offers a complete NFV solution in an industry where NFV is more hype than reality. "There are multiple pieces to an NFV implementation, and most people who claim to do NFV have a limited implementation of one piece," said Nolle, who founded the CloudNFV initiative and served as its CTO until stepping down in February.

Looked at from the narrow perspective of the product capabilities, it "seems fairly pedestrian," Nolle said. But there's a complete NFV implementation underneath, putting Overture ahead of bigger players including Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems, Juniper, HP, IBM, and more. "Overture does more than they need to do," Nolle said. "I have not seen a commercial offering of NFV that matches this in capability from anybody."

The thoroughness of Overture's implementation makes it a prime takeover candidate, he said.

He added, "What they've done is more important than what they claim to have done. That's rare. I don't run into that too often." And then he laughed.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

Want to learn more about SDN and the transport network? Check out the agenda for Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. For more on the event, the topics, and the stellar service provider speaker lineup, see Telecommunication Luminaries to Discuss the Hottest Industry Trends at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event in June.

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