DENVER — As SD-WAN moves past hype and new iterations of the technology begin to emerge, operators and service providers all have different ideas of what’s next for SD-WAN. However, in a panel discussion with service providers, standards bodies, and vendors at Light Reading’s NFV and Carrier SDN event this week, all panelists agreed on one thing — the next phase of SD-WAN will be based on a universal CPE (uCPE) approach.
While this is already being offered in the market, the panelists agreed that this business model works, is buyable, and provides the most value. Currently, there are a number of different deployment options for SD-WAN. Offerings include virtual CPE implementations, off-the shelf uCPE platforms, and fully managed SD-WAN services.
“uCPE is just another word for server virtualization, this isn’t anything new, they weren’t invented by networking departments and models. It’s already been proven to work, [SD-WAN] will go in that direction. It’s just a matter of time,” said Aaron Tomosky, the director of solutions consulting at QOS Networks.
When SD-WAN was first being deployed, suppliers provided a turnkey offering that came pre-integrated and was simple to deploy. These hardware appliances met the needs of end-users, such as connecting and managing connections between branches, but they couldn’t easily be upgraded or deploy new features. Instead they had to be ripped out and replaced.
But offering SD-WAN as a hardware appliance was a necessary first step for some as it supported the transition from legacy systems until other approaches, including over-the-top (OTT) platforms and uCPE platforms, were fully realized.
However, as SD-WAN evolves it must fit into a cloud-centric architecture, offering different classes of services, according to Rami Yaron, board director and co-chair at MEF. With the uCPE approach, providers can deploy their virtualized services on a low-cost platform that enables the deployment of a wide-variety of virtual network functions (VNFs). This creates a consistent service offering across platforms as providers can use the same software on every platform.
While OTT solutions can offer some of the needed network agility, including orchestrated services offering on top of the SD-WAN, Yaron noted that this doesn’t have the capability to put VNFs at the edge. “Customers want NFV agility,” he said. Yaron continued that the idea of uCPE is not as a product but as a feature that supports multiple environments, multiple VNFs, and multiple vendors. It’s an open environment to give you NFV agility.
Prayson Pate, the CTO of the Ensemble division at Adva, said that the uCPE business case works because all the network components — VNFs, servers, and platforms — involved keep getting better. Deploying SD-WAN on an open virtual platform allows changes to be easily made, enabling greater agility, he said. Pate noted that uCPE is not a requirement, not today at least, but said that “the path forward is an open platform.”
Jeff Lewis, the vice president of data product management at Comcast Business, said that Comcast is “all in on the uCPE approach.” He noted that this supports customers wanting multiple options for the services and applications, as you can begin to offer multiple VNFs to be layered on top of the SD-WAN. Lewis added that Comcast Business is currently working toward offering three VNFs with its SD-WAN offering.