Dell EMC today rolled out an open universal customer premise equipment (uCPE) platform designed to support multiple virtual network functions (VNFs) and software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) use cases.
Intel Xeon D-2100 processors power Dell EMC’s Virtual Edge Platforms. Using the new Intel system-on-chip processor provides higher performance-per-watt for SD-WAN and uCPE as well as low latency, according to Dell EMC.
The modular platforms also come pre-validated and integrated with SD-WAN software from three vendors: Silver Peak Systems, VMware’s VeloCloud Networks, and Versa Networks. And they target service providers and enterprise customers, said Jeffrey Baher, senior director of product and technical marketing at Dell EMC.
“This platform allows you to collapse multiple functions and products into one platform,” he said. “Enterprises might see it as next-generation network access. This is optimized hardware with SD-WAN as one of the principle workloads in mind. And as a service provider, you would think of this as uCPE. The hardware is the engine with the software on top making intelligent decisions about where information should be routed.”
The products are also part of Dell EMC’s open networking initiative, which allows customers to mix and match software from different vendors on top of agnostic hardware. This model originally focused on disaggregated data centers. Then late last year, the company launched open switches for data center interconnection and SD-WAN Ready Nodes in partnership with Silver Peak, VeloCloud, and Versa.
“The focus of our SD-WAN Ready Nodes was being able to take SD-WAN software from third-party vendors and tightly integrate and couple them into our hardware solutions,” said Dell EMC’s Kevin Shatzkamer, VP of service provider strategy, architecture, and solutions, in an earlier interview.
Today’s launch uses software-defined architecture to push open networking out to the edge, including branch offices, Baher said, adding that it also provides a competitive alternative to proprietary Cisco routers.
“If you think IT is moving down the disaggregated path, this layer-cake model, then there’s not that many vendors that have a complete solution that moves down that path,” he said. “If you want to stay within the Dell Technologies family, you can lay down VMware and Pivotal [software], or you can exit that and add Cumulus and Big Switch. We want to make sure you can go with whatever hardware and software you want.”
Baher won’t name any customers that are using the Virtual Edge Platforms. “A few Tier 1 operators globally are looking at this as part of a managed service,” he said. “There’s also pretty significant movement within the Global 500.”
Dell’s Telco Push
The new platforms also point to Dell EMC’s larger push into the service provider space — and how its parent company, Dell Technologies, has lined up its various brands to take on telco cloud.
Last year Michael Dell announced a multi-million-dollar push push to target service providers, Shatzkamer said during an interview at Mobile World Congress 2018. “It’s the only vertical inside Dell EMC,” he added. “We’re taking our expertise in IT transformation and adding specific expertise around telco operations.”
The first step is helping telcos deploy network functions virtualization (NFV). To this end, Dell EMC launched NFV Ready Bundles for service providers last year. These use Dell EMC hardware with either VMware or Red Hat software integrated into the platform.
Dell Technologies owns about 80 percent of VMware. And VMware acquired SD-WAN vendor VeloCloud in November. This technology enables VMware to expand its network virtualization platform, NSX, from the data center to the network edge.
All in the Family
As telcos continue down the virtualization path and look to edge computing to enable 5G technologies, they’ll need to adopt containers, Shatzkamer said.
“At the network edge, everything we see is container driven,” he explained. “Virtual machines are heavy weight, and there’s a need to get to a lighter-weight control plane technology that allows us to rapidly innovate at the edge of the network for vRAN or cloud-RAN, MEC [multi-access edge computing], the compute foundation for delivering CORD.”
And yes, you guessed it, Dell Technologies has a brand for that: Pivotal. The container piece of the Dell Technologies’ story is Pivotal Container Service (PKS).
“And then the third evolution of telco cloud is cloud native,” Shatzkamer said. “You need this orchestration layer that can extend over AWS and Azure, but also support VMware environments inside of the telco. Pivotal Cloud Foundry provides pure cloud native capabilities.”
Pivotal Cloud Foundry is the company’s open source cloud native platform. It allows companies to deploy applications to multiple cloud platforms, both private and public, as well as on bare-metal servers, with no changes to the application.
“This is the year when we’ll see this telco cloud go to scale and production, and the container world in trial and in PoC,” Shatzkamer said.
And while Dell Technologies would probably prefer customers keep their cloud strategy all in the family so to speak, the parent company realizes that ultimately open networking is key to continued success.
“Along this telco journey, Dell Technologies has all of the capabilities, and we have a preferred direction on how we’d like to see the industry materialize, but there’s full recognition that customers are going to make a lot of transitions,” Shatzkamer said. “From that perspective, we’ll always allow choice. Remaining open and accelerating disaggregation is good for us as company.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article reported a specific dollar amount for Dell’s telco investment, but the company retracted that figure.