Verizon unveils ‘virtual network services’

Vendor partners include Cisco, Juniper, Palo Alto Networks and will expand

verizon virtual
Credit: Thinkstock/Wikimedia

Hard on the heels of a similar pitch from AT&T, Verizon this morning is taking the wraps off a lineup of Virtual Network Services (VNS) that it bills as a natural extension of data-center virtualization that promises enterprise WAN customers fast, flexible provisioning as well as cost savings.

Industry analysts say such an expansion of existing software-defined networking will find an audience, but that not every customer will be ready for the deep end of the pool at the same time, a caveat Verizon readily acknowledges. The Verizon package – initially including security, WAN optimization and SD-WAN services -- offers customers multiple delivery and pricing models, as well as managed software from a roster of brand-name vendors such as Cisco and Juniper the company says will expand.

“The enterprise CIO tells us they want to worry less about the network itself and more about their customers’ experience,” says Victoria Lonker, director, product and new business, at Verizon. “This means they need solutions that offer an integrated management option all the way from the app to the cloud in a very simple way that hopefully reduces total cost of ownership.”

The Verizon network services are globally available via three models: customer premises equipment (CPE), cloud-based virtual CPE services and hybrid where users can mix the two, Verizon says. Customers may use public, private or wireless networks from Verizon or other service providers and any combination of same. Juniper will make the initial on-premises equipment, which Verizon describes as “more like a server” than existing single-purpose appliances and Verizon will manage and service the devices as part of the VNS offering.

This graphic shows the lineup of services and vendor options, which Verizon says will expand:

verizon virtual Verizon

There are multiple service pricing models including monthly, a-la-cart, contract and non-contract.

Reaction of industry analysts to Verizon’s direction is generally positive.

“Verizon is a little bit ahead (of AT&T) in some respects,” says Nav Chander, research manager for enterprise telecom at IDC. “They’re already offering SD-WAN (and have) taken a little more holistic approach. AT&T is doing a lot of this in-house. They seem to be emphasizing hardware and to me it’s all about software now.

 “What Verizon has done, which I think is pragmatic, is they’re offering three different ways to transition to virtualized services: a mix of on-premise (equipment), cloud-based services and hybrid. That makes sense because enterprises are at different stages of their digital transitions.”

Another analyst sees the Verizon offering as part of a natural evolution.

“The demand for ‘hybrid WAN’ services like this is not new but some of the technology and network infrastructure is now advanced to manage many different services, manage them better and improve the cost of growing bandwidth demands,” says Mike Sapien, principal analyst, large enterprise services, at Ovum. “I see this new (Verizon Virtual Network Services) offer as a platform for improved management, bandwidth control and network efficiency that allows customers to manage different services and providers, direct some best-effort traffic to lower-cost network services as well as lower cost of overall connectivity. This will take some time for adoption, but there is demand for this service.”

The success of virtualization in the data center has paved a path for network virtualization, according to Verizon.

“Virtualization in the data center enabled an elastic and scalable application layer and that meant new apps could be deployed much more quickly and the necessary compute and storage could flex accordingly,” says Verizon’s Locker. “The network is finally catching up to the data center and these same catalysts … are actually driving the virtualization of apps in the network and that’s resulting a need for networks that are dynamic and agile along with network functions that are also dynamic and agile.”

If the major networking vendors such as Cisco and Juniper are concerned about such services cannibalizing their existing product lines, they didn’t make that an issue in their dealings with Verizon.

“No, they’re anxious to stay in the game,” says Lonker, “and if they want to stay in the game in a virtual instance then they’ve got to make their products just as robust and sellable as their physical ones.”

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