Nokia sees growing opportunities for SD-WAN, optical integration with Alcatel-Lucent

BARCELONA, Spain -- Nokia's (NYSE:NOK) acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent may still be quite young, but the vendor is already seeing growing opportunities to apply SDN and NFV wares to emerging applications like SD-WAN and combined IP and optical functions. The vendor is demonstrating all of its SDN, NFV and optical products and services here at the Mobile World Congress under the Nokia brand.

Apart from being renamed the IP/optical division, not much within the former Alcatel-Lucent optical and IP routing division has changed since the transaction was completed in January. Nokia also combined functions like the two separate packet core divisions under one common team.

As a combined vendor, Nokia may be an even bigger fish in the wireless infrastructure pond, but Alcatel-Lucent's Nuage division is a major element in its SDN and NFV vision. It has already roped in 50 customers, including a mix of Tier 1 and alternative service providers as well as large enterprises like banks and hospitals, centering on data centers and SD-WAN.

With Nokia's flavor of SD-WAN, called virtualized network services, the vendor can bring automation and provisioning of WAN services over any transport.

"The service can be delivered as a service by a service provider or can be put together by the enterprise themselves using anybody's transport," said Manish Gulyani, VP of IP/optical networks marketing and corporate affairs for Nokia, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "You can still buy circuits from your service provider whether it's broadband, enterprise VPN and run your end-to-end connectivity across branches."

Nokia said that it recently signed a SD-WAN service deal with an unnamed alternative provider in Singapore and it has other deals pending in Europe and North America.

"We haven't announced many customers because they want to have a service to offer to the market," Gulyani said. "One is coming up next week in Singapore, which is an interesting alternate provider and we have a few teed up in North America and Europe that are significant ones."

While still an embryonic service, SD-WAN adoption amongst service providers is growing.

Verizon (NYSE: VZ), for one, recently launched its SD-WAN network solution leveraging Viptela's SD-WAN Platform, allow customers to "mix and match" private and public IP connections such as MPLS, wireless LTE, broadband and Ethernet. 

Meanwhile, EarthLink revealed during its fourth quarter 2015 earnings call that it would start offering a turnkey SD-WAN service later this year, one that includes professional services for enterprise customers.

In tandem with the SD-WAN solution, Nokia is also crafting a carrier SDN solution for the service provider's wide-area network that takes into account the notion of marrying optical and IP. This combines the capabilities of Alcatel-Lucent's IP-based routing and optical platforms like its 7750 platform and optical platforms to help them automate their service delivery process.

"The other network solution we have is the carrier SDN solution, which is now the wide area network the service provider actually physically builds to turn up and manage capacity and that requires a different SDN solution that understands the network topology, the capacity, the IP and optical network together," Gulyani said. "Based on your requests, it can compute the best path, find the resources and provision all on demand."

According to Nokia's research, a service provider could reduce costs by 40 percent or improvement in network utilization by coordinating the optical and IP layers with SDN on top managing each layer.

Already, Nokia's vision is resonating with service providers. Since launching the product last May, nine customers have purchased its IP, optical and SDN solutions.

"We have a customer in the Philippines that's buying our IP network, our optical network and our SDN solution because they believe in the vision that you need to do coordinated service turn up and coordination across the two layers," Gulyani said. "They're going to build a new IP and optical backbone and put an SDN layer on top."

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