Cisco unveils new SDN products, says wireless carriers focused on functions connected to packet core

Cisco supports more than 15 virtual network functions as part of its software-defined networking (SDN) portfolio for carriers, according to a senior executive, and the networking giant is pushing hard on SDN with the release of new products.

Speaking yesterday at the company's annual investor day at tis Cisco Live event, Cisco's Kelly Ahuja said that "frankly a lot of the operators have been in the labs trialing it for this purpose or that purpose."

Ahuja, Cisco's senior vice president for service provider business, products and solutions, said in mobile, carriers are focused on using SDN not on the packet core but on network elements and services that attach to the packet core, such as firewalls, load balancers and even Voice over LTE infrastructure.

Interestingly, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the event, Ahuja added that "most operators are telling us, look my network is a chaos, an IT construct is a chaos. Virtualized chaos is still chaos, right, so what you got do is show me what value these things can add for me."

Ahuja said Cisco is deploying things like virtual managed services, "which is really a platform on which they can deploy services for different types of customers," and that in "business customers is where we're starting to see most relevant application and deployment of that."

Carriers are working to make their networks more flexible through SDN, and shift away from proprietary hardware systems through network functions virtualization (NFV). Operators want to embrace that architecture to reduce costs and deliver new services to customers faster.

Both Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ) and AT&T (NYSE: T) are partnering with Cisco as part of their SDN efforts. Cisco said today that in the second half of the year it will release new hardware and software additions to its Application Centric Infrastructure product line for SDN. That will include support for Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) Azure cloud platform and new SDN capabilities across its Nexus Switch Portfolio.

Rob Soderbery, Cisco senior vice president of enterprise products and solutions, said yesterday that Cisco has around 50 percent market share in wireless infrastructure. "We've been able to secure the enterprise but we've been somewhat challenged in the low end and that's what has really prevented us from really taking our share up towards the 60 percent--65 percent level, which is my goal and where I'd like to see the business," he said.

Soderbery said Cisco's carrier and enterprise customers want to engage more with consumers directly on their mobile devices when they go into stores, for example, and Cisco is working to enable indoor location and then marketing and advertising on top of that. He said that Cisco is seeing some benefits from that even now.    

"We've been connecting from passive analytics, matching our mall operator… you can see where people and their mobile devices are in the mall... We're driving traffic at the right places," he said.

Cisco is also focused on the continued evolution of 802.11ac Wi-Fi technology, also known as AC Wave 2. Adoption of the technology has somewhat stalled, Soderbery said, but Cisco will keep pushing on that front.

Cisco is also focusing on the lower end of the wireless service provider market and working to cater to those customers' needs, he said.

For more:
- see this Cisco release
- see this Seeking Alpha transcript
- see these two separate Network World articles
- see these two separate ZDNet articles

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