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When Network Services Go Virtual

Virtualized Data Center

James Anderson**Editor’s Note: It’s not too late to register for the Channel Partners Conference & Expo, the gathering place for the technology services community, April 10-13, at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.**

Partners can find recurring revenue and a variety of solutions to offer customers within the umbrella of virtual network services.

Frank Cittadino, executive vice president of client solutions for QOS Consulting, and Chad Thompson, Verizon’s senior manager of virtual network services, will participate in the “When Network Services Go Virtual” concurrent education session, April 11, part of the Next-Gen Tech track at the Channel Partners Conference and Expo in Las Vegas. It’ll be moderated by Mike Sapien, principal analyst for Ovum.

Ovum's Mike SapienWe spoke to Sapien, Cittadino and Thompson about virtual network services.

The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Channel Partners: What are virtual network services, and why would a partner want to offer them?

Mike Sapien: Many providers are now moving their network services to new software-centric service platforms that are virtualizing network services, but also using this new platform to create a broad range of virtualized managed services. Network services are just the beginning of the services used for these platforms. Many providers already have plans for expanding many managed services to virtualized managed services. The initial list of these services is WAN optimization, firewall and other security features. But partners need to be ready to sell these virtualized networks services that will grow to include many virtualized managed services. Partners need to be ready to start with virtualized network services so that they can easily add and promote a full array of virtualized managed services in the near future.{ad}

QOS Consulting's Frank CittadinoFrank Cittadino: As we see the shift to cloud compute supporting a more agile workforce, we find that virtualizing their network equipment adds flexibility and value. Virtual network services include anything that takes a business’ physical networking equipment – which often includes a hardware platform such as firewalls, switching and routing – and replicating it into software. Because of this, we can use a single piece of host hardware that will support multiple virtual devices. Virtualized network solutions, such as SD-WAN, cloud-based firewalls and virtual switches are often more portable, scalable and cost-effective than a traditional hardware-based network.

Legacy WANs are ineffective for cloud because network traffic has defined access points and then is distributed over the WAN to the remote location. Virtualized networks offer ultra-high redundancy and performance, direct control and increased security access so legacy physical workloads, cloud workloads and mobile applications can be optimized and the entire network can be …

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… used more efficiently. In a legacy network, physical appliances are deployed in each location, which limits performance; changes are slow and costly, and security is always a concern. With products such as SD-WAN, services can be delivered virtually to any location in an on-demand basis.

Verizon's Chad ThompsonPartners should offer these services because eventually, most businesses will manage their networks this way, if they can see how scalable it is to the growth of their companies. Virtual networks are quick to deploy, reduce management, are highly scalable, and businesses can take advantage of these efficiencies of an agile software-based resource. The next step is to manage all of these services from the cloud, which can be easily monitored.

Chad Thompson: This solution turns network services into on-demand virtual services available in both a Hosted Network Services Platform (HNS) or on universal customer premises (uCPE) hardware, simplifying network architectures by replacing complex webs of multiple purpose-built hardware with virtual network functions including routing, SD-WAN, security and WAN optimization.  Partners would want to offer this to provide additional agility and consolidation of multiple functions into a single uCPE.  Using the latest in software-defined networking and network-function virtualization, partners can now offer a full range of capabilities easily and more simply than ever before.

CP: What are the most common misconceptions or obstacles that surround virtual network services?

MS: Some of the common misconceptions are that many of these services are not ready yet and that there are still some technical issues required for these virtualized network services to be ready for production network deployment. Many providers are already deploying these services today for some very large customers, and some of these solutions are just an extension of existing hybrid WAN services but now leveraging new software and features to enhance hybrid WAN features, including new control and management features. Most technical issues have been resolved, but there is major confusion in the market by the large variety of new services announced and the providers having so many new options — some available now and some as future road map. This does make it hard for customers to easily evaluate providers and when features are available. But this makes it an ideal environment for the partners to provide credible information and clear up some of the confusion.{ad}

FS: There are many common misconceptions about virtual network services. One of the most common is the idea that networks belonging to businesses will be managed “out there” in the cloud, and therefore they are not physically under direct control or managed directly by a company’s IT team. However, we are using applications that are hosted in the cloud every day in a highly secure and dedicated environment, and this is the direct result of networks continually being virtualized, and without the foundation of a virtualized network, the ability to cloud compute would not exist.

CT: A common misconception is that using SDN/NFV technologies can be difficult and costly. With VNS, Verizon offers everything as a simple monthly recurring cost that is fixed based on the types of functions that customers need.


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