Cisco officially took the wraps off a new virtualization and orchestration software offering called the Evolved Services Platform (ESP), parts of which are already being used by 25 service providers around the globe.
The new platform is part of Cisco's open network environment, the software-defined networking (SDN) strategy Cisco announced in June 2012. ESP is intended to span cloud, video, mobile and fixed service architectures. By providing service elasticity, the platform aims to enable service providers to accelerate new service deployments and network functions, harnessing resources as needed on demand.
Among the 25 service providers already using various aspects of the ESP in their networks are China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom Technik (Deutsche Telekom's planning and deployment arm) and Telecom Italia.
"Service providers globally view virtualization not just to reduce costs but to have it work with their infrastructure to provide even greater value by means of increased agility and elasticity," said Pankaj Patel, Cisco executive vice president and chief development officer.
The Cisco ESP sits between the application and Cisco Evolved Programmable Network (EPN) layers of a network's architecture. The platform is multi-vendor, based on open standards and incorporates Openstack and Open Daylight protocol suites. It is compliant with ETSI's network functions virtualization (NFV) management and orchestration guidelines and 3GPP specs.
"With interoperation of third-party software, Cisco ESP works with Cisco's virtual functions and with other vendors' functions and applications such as Broadsoft, Metaswitch Networks and Openwave Mobility," Cisco said.
The vendor also rolled out its first two virtual service modules--one targeting cloud-driven video recording and the other focusing on virtualized mobile services such as sponsored data. The latter module, called Cisco Virtualized Mobile Internet, is being trialed by China Mobile as well as other unspecified service providers. It revolves around Cisco's Quantum Virtualized Packet Core (vPC), the Cisco Virtual Gi-LAN capabilities and the Cisco Quantum Services Bus.
In addition, Cisco announced four ways it is providing its virtualization offerings to service providers.
Individual virtual functions may be purchased independently as a separate module and run in a network over general computing; virtualized functions and orchestration may be employed in a "networked" or "service chaining" approach; virtualized service functions can be combined with orchestration and a hardware package in a so-called pod approach that works atop of Cisco infrastructure and including Cisco integration consulting services; and complete service offers that include virtualized service functions combined with orchestration can be delivered via a hosted or third-party cloud using a pay-as-you-go model.
The extension of SDN into the service provider realm continues to pick up steam on multiple fronts. Just last week, Ciena signed a pact to become Ericsson's preferred partner for packet optical and SDN.
By working with Ericsson, Ciena will get access to a larger source of global service provider relationships, including the largest Tier 1 wireless operators, and its professional services unit. Ericsson, in turn, will gain access to Ciena's portfolio of converged packet optical gear. In addition, the two vendors intend to collaborate on an open-source Layer 0-3 SDN controller.
"The battleground for differentiation is quickly moving to software and professional services. Ericsson is the second-ranked provider of telecom infrastructure services [just behind Cisco] and is number one in the network-related subsegment," said Ron Kline, principal network infrastructure analyst at Ovum.
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