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