Verizon to offer virtual CPE services in 30 markets by the end of 2016

Sign outside a Verizon Wireless store

Verizon (NYSE: VZ) plans to deliver virtual CPE (customer premises equipment) services to over 30 global markets by the end of the year, allowing business customers to take advantage of software-based services that reside in the telco's cloud network.

Set to go live this fall, Verizon's virtual CPE service is a network cloud-based model where the functions are deployed on the same platform for its own SDN-based wired and wireless networks.

"This deployment of the network cloud-based solution will happen in over 30 global markets by the end of this year," said Victoria Lonker, director of product and new business for Verizon, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "We believe our offer is unique because it's fully managed as a service from the device to the application and we have a broad and growing list of vendor functions to choose from."

Customers that purchase the virtual option can opt to get application routing, depending on their specific needs.

"The customer is not locked into a specific hardware platform that forces them into a custom box," Lonker said. "They will have options with Verizon because we have a variety of options available with SD-WAN."

Verizon's cloud-based virtual CPE service is part of its broader Virtual Network Service plan, under which it will offer three virtual service models to business customers. This service suite will also include premises-based universal CPE and a set of hybrid services where clients can mix premises-based and cloud-based deployment models to meet their individual business and technical requirements.

With the universal CPE option -- a trend that CenturyLink (NYSE: CTL) is also following with its software-based services -- Verizon will equip businesses with a so-called universal platform.

Verizon's initial Virtual Network Service packages include security, WAN optimization and SD-WAN services.

Earlier this year, Verizon introduced its SD-WAN service in multiple countries. Using Cisco and Viptela equipment, the SD-WAN service allows business customers to "mix and match" private and public IP connections such as MPLS, wireless LTE, broadband and Ethernet. These elements will be based on the enterprise's geographic location, bandwidth and application service availability needs.

All of these services will leverage an automated and managed orchestration platform to enable Virtual Network Function (VNF) service chains, which are a range of services deployed simultaneously using the same platform, via a web portal.

Unlike the traditional service model that often takes months to implement, Verizon is focused on shortening provisioning time frames.

Initially, these services will leverage platforms from six of its key vendors -- Cisco, Viptela, Fortinet, Riverbed, Palo Alto and Juniper. Verizon plans to bring on other partners and capabilities over time.

"We will continue to add new partners and we will refine the features and capabilities offered with the functions themselves in a Dev Ops model," Lonker said. "We're using an iterative approach where you'll see us deploying new solutions and options using release schedules and not product versions that happen once a year, but release schedules that could happen as frequently as every two weeks."

Hybrid environments emerge 
Since many of the Verizon's business customers have locations that stretch across multiple markets, the telco can deliver these virtual services over a mix of public, private and wireless networks from Verizon or other service providers, or a combination of multiple providers across multiple networks.  

Given the diversity of Verizon's customer base, the service provider's service can also support hybrid environments, giving its clients a path to migrate to virtual services on their own timeline.

A typical hybrid environment could mean that a large enterprise customer could deploy a virtual function like firewalls in a new office while maintaining their hardware-based platforms like routers in another larger office where the device has not reached its end of life.

"Customers can't afford if they just purchased routers, for example, they'll wait till their end of life and may cycle them out," Lonker said. "With some new sites, a customer may say 'we're going fully virtual.'"

Lonker added that some customers are "mixing and matching where at some sites they may have multiple virtual functions using firewalls and another site they might just need a router."

Customers can choose from a range of service tiers, allowing them to choose the features and functionality as they need them on pay-as-you-go pricing model.

Businesses also get access to a fully automated orchestration platform that enables Virtual Network Function (VNF) service chains via a Web portal.

SMBs going virtual
While large businesses are a clear focus for these services, Lonker said that these services are also applicable to small to medium businesses (SMBs) that lack the technical staff and knowledge to manage firewalls and complex routers.

Verizon will extend its virtual service set to SMBs through its channel partners.

"Small customers are intrigued because they are not in the business of understanding a complex router on their premise, how to run the firewall, or maintain the software," Lonker said. "They would really rather not have complex devices on their premise because they just want to run their business so we're seeing that they are very willing to adopt the virtualization technology."

For more:
- see the release

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