With virtual technologies being adopted at an increased rate, being able to assure services across hybrid physical and virtual networks has become a key focus for service providers. During last month’s MEF16 event in Baltimore, CENX’s CTO, Chris Purdy, had the opportunity to sit down with TelecomTV to talk about the challenge of assuring services across next generation networks. Here is part one of that interview:
TelecomTV: Give us a quick overview of CENX and its role in the telecom industry.
Chris Purdy: We’re a telecom software vendor, selling essentially orchestration software. But really more of the assurance side of orchestration has been our focus. We have done a number of cases where we’ve done the full lifecycle, but increasingly I’d say our role is more in the assurance side; so participation in that whole closed-loop assurance. We’d be taking in all of the real-time data from the [network], mapping it against the topology of that domain, and then feeding back into the orchestration and fulfillment systems to actually affect changes to the network in that controlled loop. [CENX] sells primarily to Tier 1 service providers.
TelecomTV: There’s a lot of talk about digital transformation and network transformation. I wanted to ask you about what the current state-of-play of network is right now?
Chris Purdy: I think, still, primarily you have massive physical networks out there that are carrying huge numbers of services, huge installed base, etc., and everyone is planning on moving to a virtualized implementation, where you’re not having the custom built hardware. I think what we’re seeing now is that in just about every one of the providers we’re working with, they’re either going into production with at least one of those VNFs, or they’re about to. In some cases, there are actually a significant number that are underway. Though I think that there’s been a lot of preparation work, a lot of proof of concept, a lot of testing, a lot of feedback, so I think it could be a bit of a banyan tree where there’s been a lot of infrastructure work. But I think we could be starting to see a significant movement towards those NFV in the real production networks, in the very near future.
TelecomTV: So is the primary challenge now about orchestrating services across not only physical networks, but now virtual networks?
Chris Purdy: Absolutely. This is why we’ve increasingly started to focus on the assurance side. A large amount of effort has gone into building what is often called the orchestration, but is really the fulfillment side. It’s about the creation of new virtual machines, spinning up new VNFs, and integrating those into the networks. Not as much energy has gone into the assurance side. How do you assure those services across combined physical and virtual networks? So this is ultimately where we’ve been investing the vast majority of our intellectual property and our development, and it’s been where our biggest deployments are.
TelecomTV: East-West interoperability has been a topic that we’ve been hearing off and on lately, why are those so important?
Chris Purdy: East-West essentially means the interfaces between providers. No one provider can reach everywhere on Earth, so providers have to work together in order to reach and deliver services to their full customer base. At the GEN15 event, I made the comment that I felt those East-West interfaces were the most important for MEF to standardize. The reason is because a lot of the other interfaces are happening within a service provider, and there are a lot of custom implementations, a lot of proprietary implementations, that happen within a provider. But the interactions between providers absolutely must become standardized, or else it’s not possible to set up connections and take down connections across a large base of providers. This is because when everyone has a unique service definition, a unique ordering interface, a unique way of sectionalizing services and assuring them, it just can’t possibly scale or work at speed.