"Have it your way," was the slogan that Burger King used back in the day, but now it can be can applied to the NFV-based "as-a-service" network offerings from Verizon.
Today's networks are not just about connecting computers.They now include connecting various mobile devices to data centers, the cloud and to each other. To that end Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) recently introduced its Virtual Network Services, replacing the old network paradigm with a new model that really allows customers to choose their own way.
As Light Reading's Carol Wilson noted, Verizon's virtual network functions (VNFs) services diverge from AT&T's parallel announcement by offering a “pay-as-you-go pricing” and by working with well-known vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), Riverbed Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: RVBD), Viptela , Fortinet Inc. and Palo Alto Networks Inc. for its virtualization and security services. (See Verizon's Next With VNFs.) On the other hand, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is sticking with more traditional pricing plans while focusing on building out its own architecture for its NFV-based services. (See AT&T Offers Network Functions On Demand... Sort Of.)
To gain more insight into what Virtual Network Services can mean for Verizon's customers, Telco Transformation posed some questions to Victoria Lonker, director of product management and new business, Verizon Enterprise Solutions.
Telco Transformation: What choices will customers have with respect to the Virtual Network Services Verizon is offering now?
Victoria Lonker: The Verizon Network Services are globally available via three models: customer premises equipment (CPE), cloud-based virtual CPE services and a hybrid version for those who like to use a combination of the two. The currently available deployment model is a gray box universal CPE that sits on the customer edge. In the fall, Verizon will offer Virtual CPE, the same cloud platform that it uses for wireless in over 30 global markets in about 67 countries. That's when the virtualization happens in the network cloud.
TT: What was the impetus for Verizon to offer Virtual Network Services at this time?
VL: Enterprise CIOs say they want to worry less about the network and more about customer experience from app to cloud in a very simple way that also reduces total cost of ownership. In the old days, customers bought purpose-built hardware to support particular functions. Now they want to not have to put that kind of investment into IT systems to get the function and computer storage they need. Customers need efficient and resilient ways to get to mobile destinations. They want it all wrapped into managed services and to pay for consumption just as they do for cloud services.
The same catalyst that drove virtualization in data center is now in the network space.
Changes have occurred in the data center for many years now. In the old model, enterprise customer traffic and business applications were single threaded between computers and data centers. Those connections were robust, but static and inflexible. Because the way customers use applications has changed with mobile to cloud service, their network needs have evolved as well. Now they have to be able to communicate not just with computers but all types of mobile devices, particularly as the nature of work and employees calls for mobile ability. The destination now is not just the data center; it could be a public cloud, a private cloud or even another user. In place of the static, inflexible model for data centers, virtualization allowed for an elastic and scalable solution.
The network is finally catching up to the data center and these same catalysts that affected the evolution of the data center are actually driving the virtualization of apps in the network. Now we're seeing a need for networks that are dynamic and agile along with network functions that are also dynamic and agile.
TT: How will your customers utilize and benefit from Virtual Network Services?
VL: The as-a-service option allows them to do what they to do without having to worry about capital investment in the infrastructure. That's an advantage of opex. They're not locked into a fixed license but have portability. If they choose to, they close one site and move it to another.
TT: What were the steps along the way for Verizon to arrive at this point?
VL: This is the logical next step for the journey that Verizon's been on for quite a while. It started back in 2009 when we introduced dynamic bandwidth capabilities on the network. Then about two years ago, Verizon introduced Secure Cloud Interconnect to enable businesses to connect to the cloud in a secure way and to keep control over their network connection. In this way our network has evolved in tandem with the advances of cloud services. We offer a fully managed service software-defined WAN, and now we have arrived at the next step -- as-a-service.
We worked with our customers to be sure the solution we would be offering would be what the customers wanted. Customers were brought to the product development table, which is really a new approach. This is designed to deliver what the customers want, which is to get things to work when and how they need them. For example, they want the app that their sales guy uses on the tablet to work every time. Providing all the connectivity and back office capability that is required to make sure that happens is what we, along with our leading partners, can give them.
TT: In the press release, Verizon calls its Virtual Network Services a living network, can you explain what it means by that?
VL: Networks are not static anymore. Now customers have a lot more control and can adjust routing or other aspects of the network, according to the needs of the application. They can set policies up for the software, and the network can adjust based on triggers, or customers can make their own changes in real-time. The application is aware of what is happening on network.
Also from Verizon's end, the plan is to have the systems evolve and grow. That's not just a matter of bringing out new functions of the product once or twice a year. We will be using an iterative approach just like with software, allowing new functions to roll out to customers as they need them. We're not just managing the blinky lights on a box anymore. We're managing the application experience.
— Ariella Brown, Technology Writer, Telco Transformation