Orange Business Services' universal customer premises (uCPE) platform has taken a step up the evolutionary ladder. The company announced on Tuesday that it has picked Dell Technologies and Ekinops as its partners for a new uCPE solution.
The uCPE offering will be available to mid-market and enterprise customers worldwide sometime this year.The uCPE platform combines middleware from Ekinops with hardware provided by Dell Technologies. It's not Orange Business Services' first foray into uCPE.
"We announced a uCPE solution with Cisco back in 2018," said Laurent Perrin, director, product, management, application-driven networks at Orange Business Services, in an email Tuesday morning to FierceTelecom. "This solution is already deployed with many customers around the world. You can access that announcement here.
"This new uCPE solution provides additional choice for our customers, and we see a strong interest working with Dell to integrate network requirements together with edge computing."
IHS Markit defines a uCPE as a device providing a "pico cloud," including compute, storage and switching capable of executing VNFs such as virtual firewalls, SD-WAN, virtual WAN, virtual application delivery controllers and optimization appliances.
When paired with network functions virtualization (NFV), uCPE reduces the number of devices on a customer's footprint that are needed to provision services. By using generic network equipment, uCPE reduces costs associated with installation while also giving service providers the flexibility to deploy or update services at a faster pace than traditional hardware. The flexible nature of software running on standard compute allows multiple virtual network functions (VNFs) to run on a single uCPE.
With its new uCPE platform, Orange's enterprise customers can install the VNFs remotely to the deployed Dell devices at any site. With uCPE, a single white box can run multiple network functions, such as routers, SD-WAN, firewalls and WAN optimization, at a lower cost while also monitoring and orchestrating the VNFs to scale.
"We support VNFs with key players like Cisco and Ekinops for routing; Fortinet and Cisco for SD-WAN; Palo Alto, Fortinet and Checkpoint for security; and Riverbed and Infovista for WAN optimization," Perrin said. "This is all available in 2020. In addition, we are engaging in co-innovation projects with our customers, as mentioned in the press release, around video, IoT, and AI applications."
The promise of uCPE solutions has been somewhat hampered over the past few years by the lack of open source operating systems. In October, AT&T said it would release its DANOS network operating system into the Linux Foundation. Other vendors, such as Adva and Versa Networks, have developed their own uCPE solutions.
"The middleware, including the operating system and software used for virualization and management, is provided by Ekinops," Perrin said. "Thanks to our partnership with Ekinops, we can deliver a full orchestrated service to our multinational customers, including automated deployment of VNFs.
"It’s interesting to note that we have been working with Ekinops for a long time on MPLS/CPE projects, so we have long-standing experience in co-development between Orange Business Services and Ekinops."
In addition to Orange Business Services, Colt, Masergy, AT&T and Verizon have also deployed uCPE solutions, among others. Some of those service providers have already embarked on the second versions of their uCPE platforms. Lanner Electronics announced in October that it had teamed up with Intel to help build the second generation of Verizon's uCPE offering.