There’s a new global, greenfield telecom network with a trendy name, backed by big companies and deep-pocketed investors, along with a prominent vendor partnership. Almost sounds like telecom in 1999 again, right? The company, Ngena, is targeting software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) as services for other carriers.
Here at Mobile World Congress (MWC), Cisco and a number of service providers, including CenturyLink, Reliance, SK Telecom, and Deutsche Telekom, detailed plans to support Ngena, a private company looking to build a global wholesale network. Service providers supporting Ngena said they’ve decided that building a greenfield (brand new) SDN network is a faster way to roll out services such as software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and cloud-based VPN.
Ngena (Next Generation Enterprise Network Alliance) is targeting virtualized services including cloud-based VPN, which can be accessed on a regional basis across a backbone that is connected by Layer 2 Ethernet. Ngena is a private company that will be software and operations driven, owning none of its own network resources. It will lease network connections and data centers and provide access to regional markets with 20 to 25 data center connection points. Ngena is backed by private venture investors including the venture arm of Deutsche Telekom.
“We want to solve speed and innovation of moving to a hybrid network,” says Marcus Hacke, managing director of Ngena. “It will be extremely difficult to renovate existing networks to do things differently.”
Some service providers speaking at an event hosted by Cisco said that Ngena’s approach of building a new, software-driven overlay that spans the world will solve some of their problems integrating NFV and SDN resources into their own networks.
“Nobody has built an SDN that is global,” said Patrick Molck-Ude, managing director with T-Systems International. “It’s going to disrupt parts of our own business, but if we want to innovate we have to do it this way.”
Cisco’s support for Ngena was a popular topic with analysts attending the event. Cisco will be a supplier for Ngena, but Cisco officials said they have no investment in the company. Ngena officials said the initial architecture will be based on Cisco’s Intercloud fabric technology, but that other vendors are welcomed to participate.
One takeaway here is that operators are clearly struggling to roll out NFV and SD-WAN services at scale. They need a way to gain global reach without waiting for their own networks to be rewired.
This theme has popped up in recent months as we evaluated the evolution of NFV over the past year. As I recently pointed out, Deutsche Telekom and Cisco last year partnered on the launch of SD-WAN services in regional markets, but a more pervasive offering has been slow to arrive. The Ngena deal is designed to aid that.
Service providers and Ngena repeatedly cited the airline alliance model, in which airlines share access to services, programs, and routes to expand their reach. The Ngena launch certainly marks a new and interesting development in the NFV services market that may spur additional, collaborative efforts to push out NFV and SD-WAN services to the world.
The urgency to support a new private company to help speed up NFV deployment does confirm there is budding demand for new virtualized services. Our own primary research has backed up the idea that enterprises and service providers are interested in NFV. And service providers are especially interested in offering a virtualized approach to network services to drive new revenue.