Keynotes at the NFV World & Zero-Touch Congress in San Jose, California were very interesting today. We share our observations and view of the main themes from these interesting presentations by Nokia, NEC/Netcracker, Google, CenturyTel. The main theme of these presentations, we think, is this: NFV/SDN is now deeply in the deployment and commercial phase, where compared to 3-4 years ago, it was just a concept.
Nokia. The company announced that its Airframe server platform, which is an OCP based design, comes available with either embedded acceleration or pluggable acceleration. This comment includes its software acceleration. The company explained that its Reefshark chipset can be equipped on the Airframe server and can perform better than a non-accelerated server:
In explaining functions that an Airframe with Reefshark can perform, the company gave a good example: massive MIMO beamforming can be assisted by the machine learning capabilities.
NEC/Netcracker. Enrique Gracia presented several uses cases of the NEC/Netcracker customers that related to NFV/SDN. He explained that 16 customers have deployed one or more of these uses cases.
Full Stack OSS/BSS/MANO. A customer deployed this system in 12 weeks to launch a VNF. The system managed both physical and virtual devices.
Expand to a new territory using VNFs from home region. A customer now delivers services to a customer outside the home territory by deploying the software and service from the network location at the home location. In this particular case, NEC/Netcracker and its customer do revenue sharing and VNFs include SD-WAN, virtual firewall and others. The service provider is expected to expand its customer addressable base by 40%, mainly targeting small/medium businesses in this non-home region. This system uses MANO, OSS, BSS and the marketplace. The company says in this case, time to revenue is expected to take 50% less time to deploy new VNFs in the future.
uCPE (Universal Customer Premises Equipment) deployment instead of branded hardware. The company worked with a service provider company to enable uCPE to be deployed as an alternative to Cisco, Juniper and others' gear.
Google Cloud. Vijoy Pandey, who represented Google Cloud, presented on the topic of using AI/ML to reconfigure its data center system. The company's cloud data center architecture has been evolving continuously since it was first introduced. Currently, the company is using its own AI/ML system to learn from current network traffic patterns in order to design its future network architecture.
CenturyTel. The company has deployed Broadcom based Ethernet switches using its own Network OS. These switches do their own packet forwarding. Additionally, the company has built its own orchestration system called VICTOR. It draws upon Ansible, NetCONF, uses the service logic interpreter from ONAP and uses parts of Open Daylight. The company plans to open source this development and the spokesperson Adam Dunstan said, perhaps jokingly, that this might be called ONAP-lite.
SD-WAN vendor Riverbed announced plans to acquire Wireless LAN vendor Xirrus today. Riverbed emphasizes its product line and portfolio strategy in the Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) market. Xirrus has emphasized its product portfolio as being a cloud-enabled Wireless LAN (WLAN) market vendor. Two main themes come to mind with this acquisition:
As background, it is quite interesting to see the journey both Riverbed and Xirrus have followed over the years that makes this deal work. Both today are active participants in the cloud and software defined markets. Both Riverbed and Xirrus have participated successfully in their respective marketplaces to have undergone transformations as their markets have evolved.
Our view is that SD-WAN is more than WAN optimization. It is more than just security and services. And it is more than branch routers. SD-WAN is a full branch play. Every vendor will approach SD-WAN differently depending on their strengths. With the Xirrus acquisition, Riverbed just differentiated from its SD-WAN competitors by doubling down on enterprise relationships. We are excited about the SD-WAN opportunity. Many vendors are repositioning their product lines to address SD-WAN, and Riverbed is both strengthening and differentiating its product line to more fully address enterprise needs by adding LAN and WLAN capabilities to its portfolio.
WLAN industry consolidation has been a major theme in the past several years. Most recently, we've seen:
Consider that the early consolidation deals for WLAN companies were mainly to allow Ethernet Campus switch companies to sell WLAN/Campus Switch products to their customers. HPE's May 2015 acquisition of Aruba was a good example of this kind of acquisition. And the acquisition was done in large part to respond to Cisco's acquisition of Meraki a couple years before the HPE/Aruba deal. And, in a corporate M&A twist-of-fate, in mid 2016, switch vendor Brocade announced plans to acquire WLAN vendor Ruckus. But, before it could complete the deal, semiconductor vendor Broadcom announced its own plans to acquire Brocade and spin off all Brocade assets but its Fibre Channel assets, putting in motion the Arris for Ruckus and Brocade ICX switch products deal. So, the first several deals were switch/WLAN related, and like we said, more recently, WLAN acquisitions are related to broader themes than just campus switch consolidation of WLAN, including broadband equipment vendor Arris for Ruckus and SD-WAN company Riverbed for Xirrus.
This leaves very few pureplay Enterprise-class WLAN vendors in the marketplace these days, Aerohive being the largest among the pureplays. Interesting indeed.