We had an opportunity to speak with Joel Brand of ConteXtream last week and hear about their SDN solution targeting Wireless Service Providers. What’s exciting is here a new use case gaining the interest of a new market segment for SDN: Wireless Carriers. Joel spoke about a number of proof of concepts underway at major service providers who remain anonymous today, but given that Verizon and Comcast both invested in ConteXtream, we might make some educated guesses.
ConteXtream is probably best thought of as a network virtualization provider, with essentially a distributed L4-7 virtual switch that is able to intelligently encapsulate and direct flows across L3 networks. Their platform apparently is application aware and can understand HTTP, SIP and other L7 protocols to provide load-balancing semantics across the distributed vswitch as well. A little of Nicira/Midokura and a little of Embrane, but fully service-provider focused at this point in time.
We look forward to learning more as the POC are converted to reference-able customers.
McGrath/Power Public Relations
See details provided by ConteXtream below.
ConteXtream Brings Benefits of SDN to Wireless Service Providers
with Second-Generation Grid Network Virtualization Software
Innovative Grid Software Extends Benefits of SDN to Carriers’ Core Network, Enabling a New Business Model for Network Services while Reducing Costs and Improving Service Delivery
PALO ALTO, Calif. – October 2, 2012 – ConteXtream, Inc., a rapidly emerging network virtualization solution provider, today launched its second generation Grid software, a network virtualization solution that brings the benefits of Software-Defined Networking (SDN) to wireless service provider networks. Adding support for Evolved Packet Core (EPC) virtualization, the next-generation Grid software facilitates the elastic provisioning of network capacity and its dynamic allocation to multiple enterprise customers based on their exact needs, much like multi-tenant cloud providers do for other infrastructure services.
“Mobile data consumption is driving demand for wireless services at a pace never before seen. Until now, the only way to deal with increasing bandwidth requirements has been to add physical infrastructure – an expensive, inefficient, and short-term strategy at best,” said Craig Mathias, a Principal at the wireless and mobile advisory firm Farpoint Group. “SDN is the key to solving both capacity and scalability challenges. ConteXtream’s approach is one of the most significant developments in the history of wireless, driving carrier networks into the modern era of virtualization and commodity hardware. And the benefits don’t stop there.”
Today, carrier networks are built using vertically scalable custom appliances configured in 1+1 redundancy and provisioned to handle the highest peak of projected traffic load within the region they are installed. This not only results in a severely underutilized network, but also limits the ability of operators to innovate with new enterprise-focused bundled rate plans that are predicated on network-wide control. At the same time, operators are facing rapid declines in revenue-per-bit due to the introduction of data-hungry devices, pressuring profit margins and challenging the entire telecom ecosystem. Unless acted upon immediately, the increase in devices and data traffic on the network will cripple it, and the lower profitability will make it difficult for carriers to update the network to meet future requirements.
ConteXtream’s Grid software virtualizes the wireless carriers’ core network, enabling them to realize the benefits of SDN within their existing infrastructure to reduce costs and create new revenue opportunities. Leveraging a unique approach, the Grid software controls traffic flows through the carrier network using a distributed controller and virtual switches to efficiently load balance traffic on all EPC resources, whether they are physical or virtual and whether they are hosted within the carrier network or in a third party cloud operator. This allows service providers to control network costs, by cloud-bursting into third-party Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) providers, allowing for the increase and decrease of network capacity to meet demand. To facilitate this elasticity, the new Grid software supports layer 4-7 switching logic based on protocols commonly used within the 3GPP architecture. The Grid also supports multi-tenancy – the ability to dedicate distributed EPC resources to a group of devices, typically operated by an enterprise customer – enabling new pricing and enforcement mechanisms based on mobility, throughput, and other metrics that are currently not possibly to control at a global level for more than a single device.
“With ConteXtream’s Grid software service providers can better serve the enterprise market. It allows carriers to price and enforce bulk network service to all the diverse devices an enterprise may have, while allocating the exact resources required to serve the enterprise and meet their service level agreements,” said Joel Brand, vice president of marketing at ConteXtream. “Much like cloud computing vendors have changed the way enterprises consume compute and storage resources, we allow wireless service providers to sell network resources as a service, and change how network resources are consumed.”
Benefits of the Grid software for service provider networks include:
- Conversion of fixed costs associated with infrastructure acquisition, maintenance, and over-provisioning, to variable costs that can be charged to network users based on actual usage.
- High availability and reliability by leveraging cloud architecture and design principles that aggregate a large number of small processing elements to build a massive, global, scalable infrastructure.
- Reduced infrastructure costs by leveraging commodity hardware for all EPC components and separating software and hardware upgrade and replacement cycles.
- Greater utilization of infrastructure by matching capacity with demand, raising asset utilization from today’s sub 20 percent mark to greater than 80 percent.
- Ability to layer SDN around current infrastructure solutions, avoiding the need to rip-and-replace network hardware.
- Apply network-wide policies that allow new business models and pricing plans for bulk service offered to enterprise customers.
ConteXtream, Inc. is a rapidly emerging network virtualization solution provider that creates a new business model for wireless carriers by allowing them to sell network capacity in the same way cloud computing providers sell compute and storage capacity. Deployed by tier-1 operators, ConteXtream’s Grid software is a Software-Defined Networking (SDN) solution that facilitates elastic provisioning of network capacity and its dynamic allocation to multiple enterprise customers based on their exact needs, much like multi-tenant cloud providers do for other infrastructure services. Headquartered in Palo Alto, Calif., ConteXtream is backed by Benhamou Global Ventures, Gemini Israel Funds, Norwest Venture Partners and Sofinnova Ventures as well as Comcast Interactive Capital and Verizon Investments. For additional information, visit www.contextream.com.
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