Verizon takes Android-like approach to virtualization in network, services and applications

Verizon is serving up services and applications across three delivery models: custom purpose network, general hardware and streaming services. (Pixabay)

While some service providers are taking an Apple-like approach to virtualized networks and services, Verizon is firmly ensconced in the Android camp.

Because of variations in their networks, service providers can take different pathways on the road to virtualization and hybrid networks as well as for how they offer their customers new services and applications, but Verizon's Shawn Hakl said two primary models have emerged.

"We took a very Android, open systems model. I would characterize some of our competitors' approaches as being more of an Apple model where they pick the chain," said Hakl, senior vice president of business products, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "The first (Apple) model is a focus on a tightly integrated approach from network to NFV in which the carrier supplies the majority of the components ... The second model involves a more mix and match approach that supports multiple service delivery, software and hardware choices and is relatively transport agnostic. Verizon’s approach falls more under the second category."

Hakl didn't say which carriers were taking the Apple approach, but AT&T appears to be a likely candidate.

"There are pluses and minuses to both approaches," Hakl said. "We're more in line with what the majority of the customers want to purchase, but you get a certain degree of control with the Apple model. So we'll see how it pans out. So far, I would argue that our approach has been more successful in the market, but I'm sure if you ask them, they have a slightly different opinion. If you ask our customers, I would feel confident in that comparison."

Hakl said there were three elements driving virtualization of the network: large volumes of video data and IP traffic and internet of things applications and services.

"With IoT, you shift from connecting millions of users to connecting billions of devices," Hakl said. "In order to scale for the volumes that you anticipate—with high density IoT as well as just regular IoT and 5G— you've got to have that virtualization capability in your network."

Hakl said that Verizon's solutions were designed to work on any network whether it's wireline, wireless, private or public.

"Whether it's in cloud or the virtualization of the data center, the industry has fixed models they like," Hakl said. "So our choice, or our strategy, for organizing the portfolio is very much aligned with the preferences of the cloud purchasers. And what does that mean? That means an open network. Our solutions were designed to be transport agnostic from the ground up."

Hakl said Verizon's business customers want choices in regards to their hardware options. For its universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) hardware choices, Verizon' picked white boxes from Dell and Advantech in 2016.

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"We've got options from three or four different vendors for the virtual routing," Hakl said. "We've got different vendors for software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN). We've got six security vendors in different flavors and forms."

Verizon is giving its customers options for SD-WAN by using Cisco's IWAN and Viptela offerings, and Versa Networks. Named vendors for security include Cisco, Fortinet, Palo Alto, Juniper, Check Point and Versa. Verizon is using Cisco and Juniper Networks for routing and Riverbed for optimization while Ribbon Communications is the vendor for SBC as a service.

Among other products and services, Verizon offers session border control (SBC) as a service, WAN optimization and software-defined LAN as a service.

"The final thing, of course, is just a massive catalog of software solutions," Hakl said. "The value comes from having the software- based solutions. So really what we built is a whole catalog of open hardware, open software and open networks, which seems weird coming from a carrier, but I believe that's what our customers need."

Verizon also has roughly 39 OpenStack nodes globally in its network. Hakl said those nodes were within 10-to-20 milliseconds of major customer destinations by volume. The streaming model allows Verizon to host the same software packages that it delivers on uCPE in the cloud by establishing IP connections to any of the nodes. With the streaming option, Verizon is able to provide as a service offerings with service level agreements over IP pipes.

"So we have three delivery models, custom purpose networking, but software controlled, general hardware and then streaming, or hosted services," Hakl said. "I think that's state of the industry. I think most people are struggling to get to that stage now. We've been busy."