Packet inspection/traffic management

Procera Virtualizes Policy Management

Deep packet inspection (DPI) specialist Procera Networks Inc. is going all in on Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), announcing today that it has virtualized its entire PacketLogic product line, in accordance with the evolving European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV working group specifications and in response to customer demand. (See What's NFV All About?)

"We have a lot of customers who have been asking for this for quite a while and a lot of carriers on the ETSI interest group have been pushing us to do this," says Cam Cullen, VP of global marketing at Procera.

As a result, Procera will be trialing its new capabilities this month and expects to hold a public demonstration in October. "We are going to be showing this live, functional and ready for customers to test," Cullen says.

The move puts Procera in the leading pack of policy enforcement/management vendors that have announced and implemented NFV strategies ahead of their peers. (See Policy Is NFV's Pacesetter.)

Industry analysts such as Heavy Reading's Graham Finnie have identified policy control and policy enforcement (packet inspection/traffic management) as functions ripe for early virtualization. (See Policy Control: Preparing for a Virtual Makeover?)

Procera's announcement covers its PacketLogic Real-Time Enforcement (PRE) platforms, along with its PacketLogic Subscriber Manager and PacketLogic Intelligence Center.

And while the process is not without its challenges, Procera had one advantage, in that the company was always a software vendor and didn't make its own hardware, working instead to optimize how its software runs on standard commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware, notes Cullen.

That still doesn't make it easy. The issue of replicating some functions -- specifically that of bypass switches, which are traditionally deployed with DPI boxes such as Procera's -- in software remains. And standardized hardware platforms may not be able to immediately deliver the throughput of more specialized hardware systems, Cullen concedes.

"We have done some testing at a few customers who expressed interest in putting us on something like the HP blade center and IBM, and we easily think we could hit several hundred gigabits of capacity in those kinds of platforms, so we think right now that is about the range," Cullen says. And, naturally, Procera believes its technology is ahead of the game, with other capabilities needing to play catch-up. For Procera, "it's more a limitation of the hardware that is available rather than our software slowing down those systems," he explains.

Procera is addressing the need of its carrier customers to scale with what it calls flow-synching, which essentially handles communications among multiple DPI boxes deployed in a distributed architecture, Cullen notes.

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

Ray Le Maistre 8/7/2013 | 7:17:59 AM
re: Procera Virtualizes Policy Management Further proof that this isn't just a case of all talk - companies are actually building their strategies around NFV principles. Of course, no-one has tested or deployed it yet and it'll be interesting to see if it's a small competitive player that is first to move with a small NFV policy enforcement deployment or if one of the bigger operators, with much greater potential operational efficiencies to gain, takes the plunge, whether with Procera or another vendor.
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