In an interview with Verizon’s Shawn Hakl last week, the company’s vice president of new products and innovation told SDxCentral that Verizon will soon launch an open source white box solution that runs services from multiple vendors.
Verizon has yet to release details about the offering — like which vendors’ technologies will be included. But it is likely to receive a warm reception from the service provider’s enterprise customers that are looking to expand their software-defined networks (SDN), according to some analysts.
“It’s a bet for Verizon but it’s not as if it’s betting the farm, just the continued building up of options for clients or for prospects, and then it will follow where its customer go,” said Brian Washburn, an analyst with Global Data.
In 2015, Verizon introduced a software-defined wide-area network (SD-WAN) service. A year later, it began applying network functions virtualization (NFV) to its enterprise customers. Its “grey box” offering is supported by Juniper’s NFX series and Cisco’s UCS blades.
A white-box approach is the logical next step in Verizon’s SDN strategy, Hakl told SDxCentral.
“Yes, it will be successful,” said IHS Markit analyst Michael Howard in an email. “The uCPE [universal customer premises equipment] phenomenon is an almost perfect storm of five trends, whether it is white box, grey box, or more proprietary. This new uCPE market is resulting from enterprise demand that virtualized security functions reside physically inside the walls of enterprise locations.”
In Jaunary, IHS Markit published a uCPE forecast that found 85 percent of operators plan to deploy physical uCPE at a location to run virtual network functions (VNFs). The five trends driving the market, according to Howard are:
- Expectation of on-demand services
- Advances in NFV and SDN: functions that have historically resided on purpose-built devices (e.g. firewall, router, WAN optimization controller) are now being virtualized as software-only and run on commercially available servers
- Operators consider virtualized enterprise CPE (vE-CPE) the top NFV use case for revenue generation, capex savings, and opex efficiency
- Increasing popularity of SD-WAN among enterprises
- Edge computing
“The uCPE advantages for enterprises are quicker availability and on-demand options for new services and fewer devices at their branch sites; the advantages for operators are quicker time to new rollouts and revenue for customer site services, stickiness of customers, cleaner operations with virtually no truck rolls for new devices, and lower capex of using software rather than physical devices for customer site firewalls, IDS/IPS, WAN optimization controllers, SD-WAN, and VPN boxes,” Howard said.
AT&T Versus Verizon White Box
Meanwhile AT&T last month tested an open source, white box switch carrying customer traffic. Hakl described Verizon’s upcoming white box as a “very Android model,” compared to AT&T’s “Apple model.”
Apples and Androids? More like apples and oranges, Washburn said.
“I wouldn’t say one is superior to the other,” he said. “Even though they are very similar services, the differences talk to two different types of audiences. AT&T’s solution is going to appeal to companies that want a highly controlled environment. They want the smooth demo where everything is just flawless and done. The Verizon approach is going to appeal to enterprises that have a particular idea in mind, but there’s nothing in the market specifically that exists to deliver on that idea so Verizon will work with them flexibly to build what it is they want.
“And that being said, a lot of large enterprises do tend to be very conservative in their buying, so even though AT&T’s selection is more limited, there may be folks that see that as full production ready with all the features already done. Verizon is more for folks that need something outside the box that AT&T hasn’t done.”
While the competitors’ strategies may be different, the main advantages are the same for Verizon and AT&T, according to Howard. A white box solution enables service providers to deliver services on-demand, quickly, and efficiently — in other words, meet their customers’ SDN expectations. “Over time, we expect that a fair percentage of uCPE will be white boxes or grey boxes,” Howard said.