Running an enterprise wide area network (WAN) can entail installation, configuration and maintenance of a bewildering array of hardware that includes switches, routers, load balancers, VPNs, accelerators and firewalls.
But would you still use separate devices for each core network function, if you could instead opt for standardized, off the shelf hardware that can be configured and updated as often as you need it? Looking at the manner in which virtualization has impacted other areas of enterprise infrastructure, the likely answer is a resounding ‘No’!
That’s the rationale behind AT&T’s recent launch of a Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)-enabled Universal Customer Premises Equipment (uCPE) product. With the benefit that one standards-based, off-the-shelf server can perform any AT&T certified network function.
Closing the virtualization gap
Efforts to accelerate network infrastructure deployments and reconfiguration have lagged behind the virtualization of the enterprise. But NFV is ready to close that gap. Once the uCPE is deployed, new virtualized network functions (VNFs) can be implemented via software, instead of ordering a in a new device or engineering the configurations.
Here’s how it works today: AT&T installs a uCPE device on premise, brings it online and manages it just like a traditional managed network device. The VNF software can be managed by AT&T or the customer. Once online and activated, the uCPE connects to the AT&T SDN-enabled cloud to receive the necessary network functions. This is the new reality of software-based networks.
AT&T is building Network Functions on Demand services with an eco-system of best-in-class vendors, so you can pick the networking technology and features you prefer for the functions you want to run. Initial offerings include Juniper Networks’ virtual router, Cisco virtual router, Fortinet virtual security and Riverbed virtual WAN accelerator.
“The carrier will keep adding functions developed in-house and by partners who can add functions through APIs (application programming interfaces),” noted IDG News Service.
Offered with the AT&T VPN service, uCPE and the network functions inaugurate a new era for enterprise networking. Eventually, enterprises will be able to click on a management portal to upload VNFs to the server that can be located anywhere in the network. Ultimately, network functions will run in the network segment that makes most sense for the enterprise, whether that’s on customer premises, in data centers, in network points of presence, including cloud locations, or in a combination of these areas. And organizations will be able to reconfigure and order new functions as needed.
On demand networking
This is all part of AT&T’s Network on Demand strategy, aimed at providing:
- Near real time ordering with improved network control via an Intuitive web portal
- Ability to scale bandwidth speeds in near real time
- Installation times compressed from weeks to days
This represents a new approach to networking that will dramatically transform infrastructure management. Virtually every organization today is seeking to be more nimble in responding to the demands of business and customers. Deploying uCPE devices will make it easier to build and scale network infrastructure quickly. For more information on uCPE, please go to https://www.business.att.com/content/productbrochures/universal-customer-premises-equipment-brief.pdf.
Join AT&T and Frost & Sullivan as we discuss how Network Function Virtualization (NFV) will help change that network model by simplifying your WAN deployment and management functions.