For all kinds of organizations, effective communications between HQ, the datacenter, the cloud, and remote branches is key. After all, branch locations need constant access to centralized or public cloud-based systems, apps, and resources to support day-to-day operations.

But traditional ways of building out and supporting branch IT infrastructure are no longer fit for purpose.

Specifically, deploying, powering, managing, and supporting multiple devices at each branch location – including app servers, firewall devices, network switches, and encryption devices – is becoming an unnecessary and unsustainable drain on resources. For those depending on teams of field engineers or outsourced technicians to fault-fix and upgrade these devices, the costs will be even higher.

Edge virtualization is the answer – but how do you get there?

Ciena+Virtualized+Edge+Solution+app+noteTo dramatically simplify branch IT infrastructure, and reduce CAPEX and OPEX costs, innovative enterprises are turning to virtualization at branch, or ‘edge’ locations. This is all about replacing multiple IT devices at the branches with a single combined network switch and server that runs all the connectivity, apps, and services needed as ‘virtualized network functions’, or VNFs.

With a highly efficient, ‘all-in-one’ solution to branch infrastructure needs, edge virtualization seems like a total ‘no brainer’. Unfortunately though, the reality of replacing physical edge infrastructure with VNFs can be very complex – especially if an organization doesn’t have experience of doing it, or lacks the resources to take on substantial transformation projects in-house. 

3 ways to accelerate and de-risk your virtualization journey

Inevitably having the right strategy, and the right virtualization partner, will ensure success for any virtualization projects.

Ciena has helped some of the world’s leading retailers, banks, educational institutions, healthcare providers, and others to accelerate and de-risk their edge virtualization journeys and to achieve major CAPEX and OPEX savings. In our experience from these real-world deployments, we recommend an edge virtualization strategy that incorporates the following key elements:

    1)  Openness and interoperability to support truly ‘best-of-breed’ solutions and reduce vendor lock-in risks

      Many edge virtualization solutions are proprietary, requiring organizations to buy VNFs from a single supplier, or a very limited range of suppliers. To ensure a truly best-of-breed solution, consider implementing a virtualization solution that gives you choice and flexibility.  Choose a solution that supports SD-WANs, firewalls, load balancers, switches, and other VNFs from a broader range of approved vendors.

      By choosing an open, standards-based solution, you can not only select the ideal network connectivity device and VNFs to support specific technology needs in different locations and regions, but also avoid vendor lock in and adopt new technologies easily and cost effectively in the future.

        2)  Enterprise-grade solutions that provide constant uptime and great performance

          One of the key reasons why edge virtualization is so complex is that VNFs need to be engineered to interoperate on the same device, which can cause task-scheduling issues. To overcome this key challenge, choose a solution with advanced service chaining and orchestration capabilities that can ensure that all VNFs running on your edge devices work in a coordinated and optimal way.

          By choosing a partner that pre-tests the selected VNFs on its platform, risks are reduced even further and you can be confident that the solutions will work together seamlessly from day one.

            3)  Specialist skills and resources – with real-world experience of deploying edge virtualization projects at scale

              For many enterprises, dedicating resources to edge virtualization means taking teams away from other critical projects. In other cases, internal skills and resources are lacking altogether, making such large, complex projects impossible to deliver internally.

              By choosing to work with a specialist edge virtualization partner, you can de-risk the process, and accelerate time to market and ROI. You can also get great guidance on the VNFs that best meet your needs and create a best of breed solution quickly and with confidence.

              Thousands of enterprise branches virtualized – and counting

              Ciena has the virtualization experience needed to help accelerate the journey and reduce branch infrastructure complexity and costs. We have already delivered large-scale edge virtualization projects for retailers with thousands of branches – as well as for financial institutions, healthcare providers, and school districts with hundreds of branches each.

              In all cases, our enterprise clients have been able to achieve impressive savings – not just on CAPEX equipment costs, but also for ongoing maintenance, support, patching, and upgrades of their branch infrastructure.   Most importantly, our systems integration service enables each customer to implement virtualization on a schedule that is optimized to their specific situation and branch configuration.

              Make your own virtualization journey faster and easier

              Ciena’s end-to-end Virtualized Edge solution incorporates all the technology, skills, and resources needed to virtualize the edge cost effectively, plus all the support needed to transform the edge infrastructure quickly – whether an organization needs lots of help, or just a little.

              We can also help virtualize the entire branch infrastructure, or choose a specific function to get started with, such as SD-WAN – depending on how much needs to be done, and how soon. With our support, selecting the right VNFs, planning, and designing a viable solution, and replacing physical infrastructure with VNFs at any scale is straightforward.


              Importantly, our Virtualized Edge solution is built on an open architecture, which allows a broad ecosystem of connectivity devices and VNF partners to choose from. Our advanced service chaining and orchestration capabilities, and extensive interoperability testing means we ensure that all these multi-provider solutions work together seamlessly.

              With this level of interoperability, it’s possible to create a truly best-of-breed, enterprise-class solution, with no risk of vendor lock-in at any stage. In other words, you’re free to evolve your virtualized edge solution however and whenever you want to, with no need to redesign your architecture or make other significant changes.

              Take the next step to a virtualized edge

              If you’d like to achieve similar outcomes in your own organization, please contact us to discuss the possibilities.  You can also find out more about our Virtualized Edge architecture and services for enterprises.

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