Cliff Young is the founder and CEO of ClearPath Networks. The organization was founded in 2002 and its NFV-based Virtual Services Platform (VSP) uses innovative Linux Container technology to enable mobile, fixed, and cloud operators to overcome traditional capex, opex, and agility barriers that inhibit innovation and competitive differentiation, while accelerating time to value. ClearPath actively promotes industry standards and open source bolstered by leadership positions in OPNFV and similar organizations.
SDxCentral: ClearPath has been in business since the early 2000s, and has served some of the world’s largest operators. Perhaps you can share how and why ClearPath embarked on its network functions virtualization (NFV) journey?
Young: For ClearPath, NFV is a natural evolution of over a decade pioneering cloud-based networking. ClearPath launched the first on-premise service fully activated and managed by the cloud and was the first to deploy OpenStack in a production environment way back in 2012. Recognizing the potential that virtualization could offer major carriers, we shifted our strategy even before the ETSI NFV ISG was formed in early 2013.
Over the past year, ClearPath has bolstered its management team with industry thought leaders active in the NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) community. How do you attract top talent to your company?
Young: The Board and I believe that recruiting senior leadership talent is among our most important priorities; we seek individuals with a proven track record, established industry presence, and high personal integrity as well. Since early 2015, we have built a seasoned senior leadership team, including Michael Brenner (product strategy and Product management), Marc Cohn (marketing), and recently Michael Haugh (product management). All three demonstrated a long history of technical and marketing accomplishments, and were recognized by their peers with senior leadership roles, and board seats in the most important NFV and SDN industry organizations.
In our conversations with service providers, we’ve noticed that vCPE is becoming an increasingly crowded space. How does ClearPath intend to differentiate itself? What is ClearPath’s value proposition?
Young: ClearPath is leveraging NFV and SDN to enable carriers, cable operators, and mobile operators to deliver highly personalized services, to SMBs and consumers. We drive down capex through highly streamlined containers, and opex through a powerful VNF Manager that allows diverse, commercial and/or open source VNFs to be rapidly onboarded, deployed, and managed. Our technology allows operators to address scale-out vCPE use cases serving thousands and even millions of end users that would traditionally be prohibitively expensive.
Please contrast ClearPath’s containerized approach to vCPE against other approaches to vCPE.
Young: Originally, NFV was envisioned as a means of virtualizing relatively large and complex VNFs that typically were instantiated in a single VM. The challenge was to scale the VNF up and down to support a range of environments. ClearPath seeks to break the ‘one VNF per VM’ norm by introducing a unique containerization scheme where multiple Linux containers may reside in a VM, each supporting multiple VNFs. By stripping down the operating system to a fraction of a typical Linux distribution, and innovating Intra-Container service chaining, we are able to dramatically reduce the cost of delivering a VNF to an end-customer- which ultimately better aligns costs to the value being delivered.
What is ClearPath’s go-t0-market strategy?
Young: ClearPath’s vCPE solution has attracted interest from major cable operators, mobile operators, and carriers. Such operators typically prefer engaging with familiar vendors whose service and support coverages is commensurate with the needs for national or global concerns. Consequently, ClearPath is actively forging strategic alliances with leading network equipment manufacturers and solution providers as our primary route to market.
Can you comment on the customer traction for your approach?
Young: For a number of years, ClearPath has been working with some of the world’s largest and most important network operators. While we are not at liberty to disclose our customers, they are successfully delivering services to thousands of mobile and fixed-line customers. Earlier this year, we conducted a public PoC with AT&T and China Mobile at the NFV World Congress event in San Jose. Many other discussions are underway with major operators; we hope to be able to share major customers in early 2016.