Enterprises and Service Providers (SP) have delivered routing, VPN & firewalling across their network using multiple hardware appliances. Rolling out new network services or functions still requires a truck rollout of new hardware appliances which is a massive operational overhead for most organisations. The promise of vCPE (Virtual Customer Premises Equipment) is to leverage virtualisation on general purpose hardware to deliver these services on demand and as-a-service.
The different services on a vCPE are called Virtual Network Functions (VNFs). While some of these functions may live on the vCPE, some of them will be delivered from the service provider’s (SP) network core. Small organisations may end up with a single switch and have all services delivered from the SP core.
Vendors building network functions need to consider how their products will be consumed. A black hardware box today can be provisioned and consumed as an on-demand service tomorrow. To succeed as a network service, a “service first” philosophy is needed when building product. Retrofitting traditional network hardware to be delivered as a service is not the way forward. Some fundamental considerations include:
- Speed - Packet processing needs to be extremely efficient in a virtual environment
- Scale - Scale well for speed, parallel processing, availability, service delivery from core
- Integration - Be a pure function which is fully driven by API, easy to service chain, flexible presentation consumed by API
- Flexible deployment - vCPE, delivery from core, delivery from cloud, secure segmentation, natively multi-tenanted
- Adhere to industry best practices and standards for service delivery and integrations. Make it easy for everyone
- Team philosophy - "we're building a service, not a box"