Overture Networks yesterday announced a series of products designed to move service provider networks into the Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) future.
The goal is to automate networks and allower service providers to move to more open platforms. Overture’s barrage of product announcements, which include a new analytics platform, service orchestrator, and virtual carrier Ethernet (CE) software, wrap up many components needed for implementing SDN in telecom networks.
The product releases come at an interesting time, with service providers caught in the balance between maintaining their aging, legacy proprietary networks and making big moves to an entirely different network paradigm. SDN, as Rayno Report has defined it in our SDN Revolution report, means using open standards, standard hardware, and a highly intelligent software layer to deliver smarter, more automated networks.
Yes, that’s a mouthful. And with Overture’s products, I needed an extra cup of coffee (and an extra 24 hours) to come up with a way to analyze all the news, but here goes. This is what Overture announced:
- Ensemble Service Intelligence (ESI): This is a big-data analytics program that helps service providers automate the orchestration of networks and services. In other words, the software looks at traffic and correlations and can help service providers track usage, verify service, and provide network diagnostics. Big Data comes to telecom.
- Ensemble Service Orchestrator (ESO): This is an open Lifecycle Service Orchestration (LSO) software tool that coordinates virtual resources and physical network elements for NFV. In other words, if you are a carrier implementing a virtual service, the ESO helps find and coordinate the hardware and software resources needed to start and manage that service.
- Ensemble Carrier Ethernet (ECE) Virtual Network Function (VNF): Overture claims this is the first “open and hardware-agnositc carrier-grade” way of implementing Ethernet at the customer premises with software only. The obvious advantage is no hardware device is needed on the customer end. Overture says the ECE provides the same CE 2.0 functionality any physical Ethernet Access Device, but it can be deployed on an off-the-shelf server.
This is an impressive package and one that’s right for the market at this time. Overture has already shipped an Ensemble Network Controller (ENC). Looking out the Rayno Report’s SDN architecture below, Overture is providing many of the pieces.
Overture’s architecture keeps with this modular approach mission of SDN: Deliver a series of modular and open services that help make the network more interoperable.
About a week ago I spoke to Overture Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Prayson Pate, and he talked about how Overture is trying to bring some of the SDN tools of the data center into the service provider network.
“What we have seen is that everybody and their brother is doing orchestration,” said Pate in an interview. “Very few people have done orchestration outside of the data center. In the data center, the problem is a lot easier, you tend to have a lot of homogenous network elements. We’ve tackled a bigger problem of moving out to the network edge. We have to create services out of virtual elements.”
This is the next big step for service providers. Not only do they have to figure out the first step in SDN and NFV — which is to strip out some of the proprietary hardware and run software on standard servers — but they’ve got to figure out how all the virtual services are going to be deployed, orchestrated, and tracked by operations.
Overture’s ESI moves provides a vision for how that can happen: Tackle one area of the network — such as Ethernet — and provide several elements of the network in the form of orchestration and analytics tools.
For those who argue about how vendors will ever make money from SDN, Overture’s ESI (service intelligence) provides a good vision: If you can provide added value in automation, orchestration, and analytics to run the network, somebody might actually buy it from you.