A vCPE moves functions away from end-user hardware — such as a branch-office router or a set-top box — to the cloud. This saves money for carriers, but even within the vCPE environment, more efficiencies can be found via software libraries, open source components, and containerization, ClearPath claims.
“We actually virtualize at the guest level,” ClearPath founder and CEO Cliff Young says. “Each container can host a separate customer and set of functions for that customer.”
And because containers can share a virtual machine, ClearPath’s vCPE lets a service provider use one virtual machine to serve multiple customers.
By contrast, Young says, the conventional vCPE model deploys each function in a separate virtual machine, so that providing a single service may necessitate using multiple virtual machines linked together (referred to as service chaining).
The benefit is that service providers can personalize microservices for each customer and scale to millions of end-users economically, ClearPath claims.
ClearPath, which was founded in 2002 and has raised $33 million to date, predates the emergence of NFV and software defined networking (SDN). In 2004, the company launched on-premises network services managed from the cloud. Beginning in 2011, ClearPath began virtualizing network functions and service-chaining them within a single container, an idea for which it has patents pending.
Of course, the company is now on board with the idea of NFV.
“Since NFV began to generate momentum in early 2013, ClearPath has been an active participant in the ETSI NFV ISG [industry specifications group], which identified vCPE as among the first NFV use cases,” says Young, who this year was appointed the advisor to the ETSI NFV chair on communications.
While ClearPath is generating revenues, it is not yet profitable. As a privately held corporation, it does not publicly disclose its financials.
ClearPath’s vCPE is particularly targeted at highly distributed, low-price, managed services for service providers to deliver to businesses and individual consumers. In addition to Deutsche Telekom, ClearPath has deployments with Hrvatski Telekom in Croatia and with BT. The company also unveiled a demonstration with AT&T and China Mobile at the NFV World Congress in May.
Many players are targeting the vCPE space. Two examples are Huawei, which worked with China Telecom in 2014 to test an NFV-based vCPE, and Adtran, which in August introduced its VNF suite to help telcos and cable providers with the transition to vCPE.