Agility’s crown jewel will be new software that goes under the umbrella name of the Agility Matrix. It’s got two pieces being announced today: VNF Market — which is that drag-and-drop shopping for virtual network functions (VNFs) — and Director, an OpenStack-compliant management and orchestration engine.
An important aspect of the VNF Market is that it’s going to include VNFs from companies other than Ciena. Five such partners are being announced today: BlackRidge Technology, Brocade (contributing its Vyatta line of virtual routers), Certes Networks, Silver Peak, and Spirent. The idea is that service providers could combine VNFs from these companies and Ciena to form services such as firewalls or virtual private networks (VPNs).
Maybe most interesting is VNF Market’s business model: It’s pay-as-you-go. Service providers wouldn’t pay for VNF licenses until after an enterprise has started using them in a service. That’s in stark contrast to today’s model, where a service provider has to install hardware appliances and hope that the customers come swarming.
“The licensing may even be on an hourly basis,” said Kevin Sheehan, vice president of Ciena Agility, during a press conference Wednesday morning.
The dream of NFV is to move network functions out of specialized appliances and onto off-the-shelf servers. Part of the reason is to save money, but there’s also a time factor. The normal process of installing new gear for new services can take weeks. Hence, the “Agility” name — Ciena and other vendors say NFV can shrink that process down to minutes.
Ciena had previously introduced applications for network automation, mostly targeting cost savings. V-WAN and Protect are two examples, respectively targeting resource scheduling and the automatic calculation of backup network paths. Those applications, along with the multilayer SDN controller created by Ciena and Ericsson, have been moved to the Agility division.