Verizon goes big on OpenStack NFV deployment

Coinciding with the OpenStack Summit in Austin, Texas, this week, Verizon (NYSE: VZ) announced that it completed what's believed to be the industry's largest known NFV OpenStack cloud deployment across five of its U.S. data centers.

Verizon worked with Big Switch Networks, Dell and Red Hat to develop the OpenStack pod-based design that went from concept to deployment in less than nine months. The five data centers are geographically located across the United States and cover its domestic wireless footprint.

To validate the resiliency of the NFV pod design at scale, the collaborators constructed and tested large scale test beds mirroring the production design, leveraging the open source community to ultimately deliver a high quality, validated NFV pod architecture. Verizon's main test bed facility is in Tampa, Fla., where it's doing most of its large-scale testing but it also has testbed facilities elsewhere.

"One of the things that made this attractive to us was the open source component," which allows Verizon to have many different companies competing and innovating, according to Chris Emmons, director, Network Infrastructure Planning at Verizon. 

Before Verizon started its NFV project on such a massive scale, it found that a lot of incumbent vendors were willing to sell it OpenStack, but they wanted to do it in an integrated fashion. But the disaggregation is what the carrier really wanted in order to encourage innovation from incumbents and disruptors and get the cost reductions it was looking for.

Verizon chose Dell because its hardware was attractive from a feature, functionality and price point perspective, Emmons said. It hooked up with Red Hat in part because it's historically been a leader in open source projects and it's a company Verizon had successfully partnered with previously.

And Big Switch? It was a disruptor that Verizon brought in because the service provider wanted to run its network on white box switches, and most of the incumbents at the time it was making its selections were not able to run their software on white box switches. Big Switch offered very good integration with OpenStack and it also had partnered with Dell on Dell's white box offering in the switch department, "so that allowed us to get kind of all of those things we were looking for -- the open source, the white box, and the disruption component of that as well," Emmons told FierceWirelessTech.

"It's just kind of a sweet spot for everybody that as we went through our testing and our trials, this ended up being the best combination for our initial deployment," he said. "The beauty of the deployment is that we continue to keep everything open. For our next deployment, we could opt to go with another vendor," like a Cisco or Juniper, or "we may use networking company 'Z' that hasn't announced yet."

Emmons acknowledged that the NFV space is moving at lightning speed. The whole NFV movement started when the operator-driven concept was introduced with a white paper through ETSI in the fall of 2012, after which much of the industry gelled around OpenStack.

In the traditional, old telco world, the mantra was 99.999 percent or five 9s uptime. The reliability requirements do not go away in the new telco world. "That doesn't change for us at the application level," Emmons said. For the subscriber or person using the network, "we still have to provide the same level of reliability to them as we've always provided."

However, in this new world, there are different ways of providing that reliability. "There are techniques in software that allow us to provide the same reliability and even better. As we get better at this, we think the network can actually be even more reliable even though you're running on what's theoretically less reliable hardware underneath," he said.

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