Alcatel-Lucent and the SDN-focused company it spun out, Nuage Networks, this week made separate moves in their respective efforts around network-functions virtualization and software-defined networking.
Alcatel-Lucent became the latest networking vendor to roll out virtual routers as part of its larger network-functions virtualization (NFV) push, introducing the Virtualized Service Router (VSR) suite of software applications. Company officials said the new software offerings—which are available now and will continue to roll out into 2015—combined with its line of physical gear give large enterprises and service providers the tools to build flexible and agile networks that balance performance with economics.
They also said the VSR portfolio complements the Virtualized Network Services (VNS) that its Nuage venture unveiled. The VNS solution is aimed at extending SDN to remote and branch locations, speeding up by 10 the time it takes to deploy new sites while reducing operation costs by more than 50 percent, according to Nuage officials.
Both announcements were made Nov. 12 during the 2014 Alcatel-Lucent Technology Symposium.
Networking vendors are embracing the move to virtualized routers to help both service providers and enterprises as they begin to migrate toward SDN and NFV environments. Organizations are under increasing pressure to make networks that are more agile and can more easily adapt to the changing demands created by such trends as mobile computing, big data and the cloud. Traditional networks populated by complex and costly networking gear are too costly, and it takes too long—sometime months—to program them. With the other two pillars of the data center—compute and storage—becoming more virtualized, networks have become bottlenecks that make it more difficult to spin out services to employees and customers.
In SDN and NFV environments, the network intelligence is taken off the hardware and put into software, where they can run on commodity systems and can be programmed in minutes rather than weeks or months.
Most recently, Juniper Networks earlier this month released its vMX 3D Universal Edge Router, which offers the same capabilities of its hardware but can run on x86-based servers. Like Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent will run the same network operating system—in this case, the Alcatel-Lucent Service Router OS—on its virtual routers and physical routers, and both are managed by the company's 5620 Service Aware Manager.
Officials with both Alcatel-Lucent and Juniper said that the addition of the virtual routers will complement the specialized physical routers that they already offer. Organizations can use both to more easily choose whichever its best for delivering a particular service and to more easily embrace SDN and NFV, they said.
"The choice between two opposing network philosophies is not the answer," Basil Alwan, president of Alcatel-Lucent's IP Routing and Transport business, said in a post on the company blog. "As with many technology innovations we will embrace a duality with each approach serving its purpose in the network. By employing this mix—or hybrid solution—operators can evolve networks at their own pace. They can test services—starting small and growing big as demand grows without huge outlays in time, costs and other resources—the main barriers to service introduction. And they can offer service support in short-bursts, where it's needed—all the while meeting strict SLAs using the ultra-powerful hardware routers in their network."
Company officials said Alcatel-Lucent's CloudBand 2.0 NFV platform and the SDN capabilities from Nuage will help form the foundation for the vendor's NFV efforts, including the virtual routers.
For their part, officials with Nuage—which Alcatel-Lucent spun out in 2013—said they are bringing the benefits of SDN that are being embraced in the corporate data center to the branch office, which will help simplify and speed up the delivery of cloud services to distributed locations.
"SDN is proving itself as a technology in … data centers," Houman Modarres, senior director of marketing at Nuage, told eWEEK. "Now we're extending what's being done in the data center to branch offices anywhere. These branch architectures are old, very closed and proprietary."
With the VNS solution, Nuage can use the corporate WAN and Internet access bandwidth to securely and inexpensively deliver services from the public, private or hybrid cloud to the branch office, according to officials. VNS enables networks that can automatically deliver the right network services to the right place at the right time, via templates that can manage the service workflow.
The VNS solution is in trials now, and will be generally available in the first quarter of 2015.