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Ciena offers enterprises vNF pick and choose 

Ciena, working with partners, has developed a platform for service providers to offer enterprises network functions they can select and configure with the click of a button.

Dubbed Agility Matrix, the product enables enterprises to choose their IT and connectivity services using software running on servers. It also promises to benefit service providers' revenues, enabling more adventurous service offerings due to the flexibility and new business models the virtual network functions (vNFs) enable. Currently, managed services require specialist equipment and on-site engineering visits for their set-up and management, while the contracts tend to be lengthy and inflexible.   

"It offers an ecosystem of vNF vendors with a licensing structure that can give operators flexibility and vendors a revenue stream," says Eric Hanselman, chief analyst at 451 Research. "There are others who have addressed the different pieces of the puzzle, but Ciena has wrapped the products with the business tools to make it attractive to all of the players involved."

Ciena has created an internal division, dubbed Ciena Agility, to promote the venture. The unit has 100 staff while its technology, Agility Matrix, is being trialled by service providers although Ciena has declined to say how many. 

"Why a separate devision? To move fast in a market that is moving rapidly," says Kevin Sheehan, vice president and general manager of Ciena Agility.  

The unit inherits Agility products previously announced by Ciena. These include the multi-layer WAN controller that Ciena is co-developing with Ericsson, and certain applications that run on the software-defined networking (SDN) controller.

"The unique aspect of Ciena’s offering is the comprehensive approach to virtualised functions, says Hanselman.  "It tackles everything from service orchestration out to monetisation."

 Source: Ciena

What has been done

Agility Matrix comprises three elements: the vNF Market, Director and the host. The vNF Market is cloud-based and enables a service provider to offer a library of vNFs that its enterprise customers can choose from. An enterprise IT manager can select the vNFs required using a secure portal.

The Director, the second element, does the rest. The Director, built using Openstack software, delivers the vNFs to the host, an x86 instruction set-based server located at the enterprise's premises or in the service provider's central office or data centre.

The Director generates a software licence, the enterprise customer confirms the vNFs are working, which prompts the Director to generate post-payment charging data records. The VNF Market then invoices the service provider and pays the vNF vendors selected.

"Agility Matrix enables a pay-as-you-earn model for the service provider, much different from today's managed services providers' experiences," says Sheenan, who points out that a service provider currently buys custom hardware in bulk based on their enterprise-demand forecast, shipping products one by one. Now, with Agility Matrix, the service provider pays for a licence only after its enterprise customer has purchased one.

Ciena has launched Agility Matrix with five vNF partners. The partners and their vNF products are shown in the table.


Source: Gazettabyte


AT&T Domain 2.0 programme

Ciena is one of the vendors selected by AT&T for its Supplier Domain 2.0 programme. Does AT&T's programme influence this development? 

“We are always working with our customers on addressing their current and future problems," says Sheehan. "When we bring something like Agility Matrix to the market, it is created by working with our partners and customers to develop a solution that is designed to meet everyone’s needs."

"Ciena has application programming interfaces that can support integration at several levels, but it is not clear that Agility is part of the deployment within Domain 2.0," says Hanselman.  "The interesting things in Domain 2.0 are the automation and virtualisation pieces;  Ciena can handle the automation part with its existing products."

Meanwhile, AT&T has announced its 'Network on Demand' that enables businesses to add and change network services in 'near real-time' using a self-service online portal.

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