Verizon and AT&T are launching programs to offer business customers virtualized network services that can be deployed and managed easily in their data centers.
The two carriers, both of which are pursuing initiatives to transform their own networking infrastructures by leveraging such technologies as software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization, announced their network services efforts this month as ways to better enable customers to address the changing demands on their networks brought on by such trends as mobility, data analytics, the Internet of things (IoT) and the cloud.
Officials with Verizon and AT&T said their offerings will enable enterprises to make their infrastructures more agile and scalable while reducing complexity and costs, allowing them to shift their focus in the network from hardware to software.
“The demands on the network are evolving,” Victoria Lonker, director of product and new business, told eWEEK, adding that with SDN and NFV, “networks are finally catching up in the data center.”
SDN and NFV are designed to move the network control plane and tasks like load balancing and routing from the underlying hardware and into software that is easier to automate, manage and program. With the new virtual network functions (VNFs) initiatives, both Verizon and AT&T are pushing to make it easier for business customers that have distributed operations and multiple remote locations to run those networking tasks. The services can be purchased via multiple models, including monthly subscriptions, contracts and by the service.
Businesses want to spend more of their time focusing on their customers rather than having to be concerned about technology, Lonker said.
“Customers today, they want their service to work just like the apps on their phones,” she said. “They don’t want to have to worry about the network behind it.”
Verizon Enterprise Solutions is delivering the VNFs as a service that can be deployed on-premises, in the cloud or in a hybrid environment. The cloud option will be available in the fall, according to company officials. Initially, Verizon’s Virtual Network Services packages will encompass security, WAN optimization and software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and the carrier will partner with an array of tech vendors to give customers options.
In virtual security, Verizon is partnering with Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, Palo Alto Networks and Fortinet, while in virtual WAN optimization, the partners will be Cisco and Riverbed Technology. Cisco and Viptela products will be offered for virtual SD-WAN, Cisco, Viptela and Juniper for virtual routing and Cisco and Juniper for universal customer premises equipment (uCPE).
The services can be delivered on public, private and wireless networks from Verizon or other service providers, or on multiple networks from multiple providers, officials said.
Lonker said Verizon will offer more services in the future, but that officials wanted to address the key areas customers were asking about.
“We’re trying to do it in a very prescriptive way,” she said, adding that services are based on “what the market is telling us and what customers are telling us they want to see.”
For its part, AT&T is launching Network Functions on Demand, enabling customers to run multiple virtualized network services on a single piece of equipment, enabling them to deploy and run the services anywhere. It’s the third service that AT&T is offering on its Network on Demand platform.
“Building networks by deploying network functions in software is a major shift in network design,” Ralph de la Vega, vice chairman of AT&T and CEO of AT&T’s Business Solutions and International unit, said in a statement. “Our software platform delivers a simple, flexible and efficient experience for any business, virtually anywhere and anytime they need it.”
Verizon, AT&T Roll Out Network Services On Demand
The first services the carrier is offering through Network Functions on Demand are virtual routing from Juniper, Cisco’s virtual router, Fortinet’s virtual security and Riverbed’s virtual WAN optimization technology.
AT&T is making the service available in 76 countries and territories worldwide.
The new virtual network services are part of larger efforts by Verizon and AT&T to embrace a software-centric approach in their own network infrastructures. Verizon started to transform its network in 2009 by offering bandwidth on demand, and last year announced it was adopting SDN for its network. Full-scale SDN deployment is scheduled for 2017 and 2018.
AT&T officials expect that by 2020, 75 percent of its network will be virtualized. Since launching Network on Demand last year, more than 1,200 businesses have adopted solutions from the platform, officials said.
The NFV market is expected to grow quickly in the coming years, according to analysts with market research firm IHS. In a report his month, the analysts said that between 2015 and 2020, the service provider NFV space will grow at an average of 42 percent per year, from $2.7 billion last year to $15.5 billion in 2020. The primary value of NFV is in the VNFs, according to Michael Howard, senior research director of carrier networks at IHS.
“The service provider NFV market is larger than the software-defined networking market throughout our forecast horizon of 2020, due to the pre-existing and ongoing VNF market,” Howard said in a statement. “We expect strong growth in NFV markets in 2020 and beyond, driven by service providers’ desire for service agility and operational efficiency.”