The company is a big name in telecom circles, selling access-network gear mostly to Tier 2 service providers, and it’s also got products for enterprise voice networks. That’s all very old-school stuff in the age of software-defined networking (SDN), so Adtran went out of its way today to note that it’s had SDN and NFV on the brain for a while.
Adtran could have said these things at any time during the past year, but the announcement is timed to coincide with Adtran’s annual press gathering at its Huntsville, Alabama headquarters.
“We’re quite a ways down the road on several different items,” says Chris Thompson, Adtran’s director of customer devices.
The company also claims it’s been active in traditional telco groups such as the Broadband Forum, trying to infuse new-networking concepts into future standards. “You should be putting these technologies into the network with next-generation architectures in mind,” Thompson says.
Adtran’s proclamation is no surprise. It just reaffirms that much of the networking industry — particularly the companies not focused on switches and routers — was already headed in a software direction.
Virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) is a particular example. I think CPE intelligence was already destined to to end up in the cloud, with a generic piece of hardware sitting at the customer premises. Adtran has been working on that front and has also been developing virtual elements for the voice network — enterprise session border controllers and voice quality monitors, for instance.
What NFV did was codify the architecture around these functions and cement the assumption that the software should run on general-purpose processors.
The unexpected development for Adtran was the request to bundle these virtualized network functions (VNFs) together. As it turns out, a customer planning to use four different Adtran VNFs doesn’t want to create four virtual machines and have all of them run traffic in and out of a virtual switch, Thompson says.
These bundles are a new offering. They were officially announced today, and Adtran has them installed with customers on a proof-of-concept (PoC) basis so far.
At the same time, Adtran doesn’t want to be accused of vendor lock-in, so it’s applying these bundles in any permutations a customer wants. A random example from Thompson: Adtran could leave out deep packet inspection so that a customer could insert DPI from Procera instead. This permuting is pretty easy to do in software; it’s mainly a packaging exercise, he says.
“We are going to offer all the functions separately as well. This is really more an ordering and licensing option for our customers,” he says.
Virtualization creates a side benefit for Adtran. The company’s products are split into two major camps: broadband access equipment and enterprise gear — the latter includes functions related to the voice network, for instance. But with Adtran’s software previously running on specialty hardware, it wasn’t always easy for one half of the company to reuse technologies from the other half. That’s been changing with the rise of NFV, Thompson says.