Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) will move to a software-centric network architecture to reduce costs and deliver new services to customers faster. The company today announced that Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco Systems, Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC), Juniper Networks and Nokia Networks (NYSE:NOK) will be its five initial software-defined network vendors.
In an interview with FierceWireless, Brian Higgins, Verizon's vice president of network planning, said that Verizon will deploy SDN it its IP multimedia subsystem and evolved packet core. Higgins said that Verizon is initially focusing on its core network and data center network functions but will also deploy SDN in the radio access network. However, that deployment will take longer.
The shift to SDN is a company-wide effort, Higgins said, affecting both Verizon's wireless and wireline networks. Verizon is going to retrain its workers to handle the transition and make sure they understand how functions like automation and reliability will be different in a software-centric architecture.
Higgins said that Verizon chose to partner with its long-term network vendor partners for the migration to SDN. However, he added that Verizon is working with more than 20 partners on SDN. Higgins said those other companies are "non-traditional" partners and will be announced later.
For the past several months, Verizon has been working with the five named vendors to deconstruct hardware and software bundles that already exist. He noted that while these bundles have been reliable, they are not dynamic. "They don't move as dynamically as we need," Higgins said.
Verizon created live lab environments in San Jose, Calif.; Tampa, Fla.; and Waltham, Mass.; and has commercial data center environments on both the East and West Coasts. Higgins said that Verizon is doing open-source SDN work and in the not-too-distant future will make additional announcements about its OpenStack work.
Higgins said the Internet of Things will be one area where Verizon will use SDN. Connected devices like smart meters, appliances and street lamps behave differently than smartphones, and send much less data, Higgins said. Using SDN, Verizon will be able to independently scale its network to handle those smaller data loads without having to also scale up its network control and signaling elements.
For services like Voice over LTE and rich communication services, Higgins noted that to enable them right now requires a physical piece of hardware to be programmed and deployed, which can take several months. With more generic hardware, Higgins said Verizon will be able to deploy new services in weeks and update existing services in days.
Some of the vendors that are working with Verizon are also working with AT&T (NYSE: T) on its "Domain 2.0" program, including Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson. AT&T's goal is to virtualize and control more than 75 percent of its network using a software-driven architecture by 2020.
Higgins said Verizon has not yet publicly released a time frame for its SDN deployment, nor has it revealed how much it will cost to deploy SDN or how much Verizon expects to save. However, the company has said it expects to spend between $17.5 billion and $18 billion on capex this year.
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