Virtual Customer Premises  Equipment (vCPE) builds on the trend of transforming previously hardware-based operations  into virtual, software-based functions.

In this case, customer  premises equipment such as routers, firewalls, VPNs, and Network Address  Translation (NAT) that used to require dedicated hardware is now moving to  virtual, software-based functions.

As the price per bit continues  to decrease, revenues are falling in lockstep. So providers are looking to add  services beyond connectivity that add to their revenue streams, market  competitiveness, and customer loyalty.

Those services include managed  IP-VPNs for branch offices and remote employees, managed security for entire  enterprises, WAN optimization, software-defined WAN, Session Initiation  Protocol (SIP) trunking, and even bundled Office 365 subscriptions.

vCPE transforms previously hardware-based operations into software-based virtual functions.

These kinds of services are  the operators’ best chance to differentiate their services from their  competition.

Historically, delivering on  these opportunities typically required a piece of hardware (a router, firewall,  VPN, or NAT) and costly, time-consuming onsite visits by service personnel. In  addition, the devices were highly complex, consumed considerable power, had  large footprints, and required regular expert support and maintenance. To make  things worse, often the gear would require replacement every couple of years  just to keep up with periodic technology advances. Thus, they were slow to  deliver and install, and took considerable resources to maintain.

The benefits of moving these  functions to a virtualized world are immediately obvious.

With central offices being  modeled more on data centers these days, many functions can live closer to a  provider’s network and take advantage of shared compute power, memory, and  storage, creating a ‘pool’ of resources whose cost can be shared among many  services and customers.

The advantages of this  approach are significant. For example, a hardware-based router on the customer  premises is dedicated to that customer and a strictly defined set of functions.  If the router is underused, the excess capacity is wasted; if it is overused,  the lack of capacity becomes problematic. A virtual router could evolve with  the customer much more dynamically, with excess capacity easily handled and  lower capacity easily reassigned.

vCPE simplifies the life of  the operator, with the need to upgrade or order truck rolls greatly reduced.

The advantages include:

  • New  revenues: With vCPE, it’s simpler to roll out and integrate new algorithms,  and protocols are easier to upgrade and deploy in a virtualized world.
  • Faster  deployment: Managed services are easier to roll out and the barriers to  entry in new regions are significantly lower.
  • Best-in-class: Operators can work with best-in-class suppliers more simply, and vendor  lock-in is eliminated.
  • Consistent  interface between elements: With a virtual environment, the interface is  consistent between each element, eliminating the confusing differences that  occur between hardware devices.

Ciena’s complete and open Distributed  Network Function Virtualization (D-NFV) solution includes all the necessary  software, hardware, and professional services for an open, turnkey system, including:

  • Software: Blue Planet NFV MANO (management and orchestration) and Ciena D-NFVI Software
  • Hardware: 3906 Platform with x86 NFV Server Module that  hosts Ciena D-NFVI Software or third-party software to run Virtual Network Functions  (VNFs)
  • Services: Ciena’s Plan and Design Services to facilitate all migration steps  toward offering VNFs

Ciena’s Blue Planet offers  service orchestration to enable vCPE across multi-vendor infrastructures to  rapidly deliver new managed services for business customers.

In addition to Blue Planet, the  Ciena D-NFV Solution is purpose-built to address problems that have accompanied  virtualized functions management, including monitoring, automating, and debugging.  The solution provides flexibility in deployment for today’s critical VNFs while  addressing these security, lifecycle orchestration, vendor lock-in, and cost  challenges.

The Ciena D-NFVI Software is  made up of three main components:

  • Ciena Base Virtualization OS, which includes an  environment with kernel, user space, and application runtime framework as  required by the VNFs to be deployed
  • Ciena vSwitch, a Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK)-based  switch that provides service function chaining as well as Ethernet and OAM  functions
  • Ciena D-NFVI Agent, which enables operators to configure and chain VNFs by means of a NETCONF/YANG API