No Shortcuts to NFV Success

Man in corridor

We are pleased to be working with Verizon on their just-announced uCPE platform for their Virtual Network Services (VNS) offering. ADVA’s Ensemble division is providing the network functions virtualization infrastructure (NFVI) with our Ensemble Connector software.

Verizon selected Connector because it is a proven, mature and flexible technology. Connector provides a high-performance and open platform for hosting a wide variety of virtual network functions (VNFs), including SD-WAN. In addition, Connector provides sophisticated networking capabilities including LTE and Carrier Ethernet, and operational functionality such as zero touch provisioning.

The Verizon win did not happen overnight. Ensemble Connector’s maturity reflects our team’s experience with software-based data paths in general, as well as specific work we’ve done on virtualized solutions over the past five years. Here is a brief summary of that history. (Note that I will describe work done by Overture Networks, which ADVA acquired in January 2016.)

September 2012: In the Beginning, There Was Virtualization …

The European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) announced the NFV working group in January 2013. Overture joined this effort, but we were already on the ground floor of applying virtualization to access networks. Below is a slide I presented on September 19, 2012 at the Carrier Ethernet World Congress in Barcelona:

Note that the listed benefits of virtualization are exactly what Verizon is enjoying as they use Ensemble Connector to provide an on-ramp to VNS. We knew the goal way back then; we just had to build it!

We started our journey with an internal demo showing a portal that provided service and bandwidth on demand. To implement the demo we coded an OpenFlow agent and datapath on an existing product. This demo underscored the importance of our experience with software-centric forwarding. That capability would become increasingly important over time.

March 2013: Then Came an Architecture

At this point, we knew we needed to define an architecture and solution for virtualization in the access network. Our answer was Ensemble. We announced Ensemble in March 2013, and it was a clear indication of our future direction. Ensemble was our vision of creating a complete solution for operators, but one that was open and built from components that could be used separately. The openness was an attribute that became more and more important over time. 

June 2014: Next We Added Partners

We emphasized the openness of Ensemble when we announced our Harmony ecosystem program in June 2014. Harmony was our bold statement of support for multi-vendor solutions for NFV. Some of our target customers were a bit incredulous: “You mean we can mix and match whatever VNFs we want?” Our answer was “yes!”

Our initial set of partners included 6WIND, Aeroflex, Brocade, Dell, EnterpriseWeb, Intel, JDSU, Metaswitch Networks, Qosmos, and Wind River. Since then it has grown to include the most extensive list of participants in the industry, as shown here:

May 2015: A Win at Masergy, With a Focus on Software

Our first announced win for Ensemble was at Masergy. The Masergy application was the industry’s first true customer premises virtual CPE deployment, replacing a stack of appliances with software VNFs running on a server. We worked with Masergy, Brocade, and Fortinet to implement a multi-vendor deployment that met Masergy’s requirements for performance and cost, all hosted on a very low-cost server. The Carrier Ethernet capabilities of Ensemble Connector were essential to this one-box solution. Masergy’s CTO, Tim Naramore, described the big benefit of this approach as being able to innovate at the speed of software. The benefits of software became a recurring theme for us, as described in “The Case for Pure Play Virtualization.”

February 2016: A Win at DartPoints

We added to our wins with the announcement of the micro-cloud application at DartPoints. This deployment included our Ensemble Orchestrator, an ETSI-MANO compliant NFV orchestrator and VNF manager. The multi-tenant and multi-vendor aspect of Ensemble were essential to DartPoints being able to host a wide variety of services. 

May 2016: Awards Month

By this time, Ensemble was getting a lot of attention. May 2016 was a banner month, with three industry awards coming our way:

Awards are great, but can you convert them to wins? In our case, certainly!

December 2016: SmartWAN Transforms SD-WAN

By this time SD-WAN was becoming a hot topic for operators. How could service providers deploy today’s appliance-centric SD-WAN solutions in a way that meshed with their plans for NFV and SDN? We at Ensemble provided an answer with our SmartWAN solution. SmartWAN transforms today’s SD-WAN from a stand-alone monolithic application to become part of a rich solution set that enables other VNFs to share all SD-WAN features. SmartWAN is consistent with our vision of an open and multi-vendor solution for deploying NFV, especially as part of universal CPE (uCPE) model.

May 2017: Verizon uCPE Win Announced

And that’s how we got here. What might seem like an overnight success actually involved years of work and preparation. We applied our experience with operator networks and software forwarding paths to create an open and high-performance hosting environment. We have solved many of the problems of deploying NFV, including secure zero touch provisioning, wireless access, and use of OpenStack in telco deployments. 

Now is the time for NFV! Let us leverage our experience and technology to help you achieve success with NFV.

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