BT will be lighting up 15 of its "cloud service nodes" in March, which will host virtual network functions (VNFs) at the edge of its network in order to connect customers with cloud services.
BT 's Jim Sabey, head of USA BT Connect & Compute Sales Specialists, spoke about the cloud service nodes, which will total 50 globally, during last month's radio show with Telco Transformation. The cloud service nodes will give BT's customers end-to-end application management and security options when they're accessing data from cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services
Salesforce and Microsoft
Microsoft. (See BT's Virtualization Game Plan.)
"Customers will be able to launch their VNFs at their sites from these cloud service nodes, and it's going to be really flexible," Sabey said on the radio show. "That's one beauty of working at BT: We offer a lot of flexible solutions."
The cloud service nodes are just one element of BT's overall virtualization road map. Early last year, BT announced its first SD-WAN service, called Connect Intelligence IWAN, which was based on Cisco's IWAN technology. In November, BT announced another SD-WAN service called "Agile Connect," which is slated for release in the first quarter, with Nokia-owned Nuage Networks. (See BT Steps Up its SD-WAN Game.)
BT is also working on an app store. While Sabey didn't provide a date for the opening of the app store, he did say that some of the elements would be available soon. The app store will allow BT customers to download apps or VNFs onto x86 devices in order to deploy new services at a faster rate.
"So I always use an example of say, Latin America," Sabey said. "It takes a long time to get devices through customs, but if you already have an x86 type of server today you could go to the BT app store. You'll be able to download these VNFs and instantly have a VNF running on an x86 server instead of waiting for that box to actually make it through customs."
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Similar to what Orange
(NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc.
(NYSE: VZ) are doing, BT will offer a virtual CPE-base service, which it calls "Agile CPE," starting in mid to late summer. BT is initially partnering with Cisco for the service by using the UCSe blade of Cisco's 4000 routers.
In an email to Telco Transformation, Sabey said the plan was to offer a range of VNFs, including security (such as firewall, malware and threat monitoring), IP Address management, WAN Optimization (with Riverbed and InfoVista), a WiFi controller and voice-related VNFs (such as session border controllers). Sabey said that the Nuage-based SD-WAN service would be available as a VNF in the third quarter of this year.
The VNFs, which are managed by BT's own orchestrator, will be offered as a fully managed or partially managed service, with future options for customers to host their own applications in the app store, or run their apps on partitioned x86 devices.
"Whether it's a fully managed solution, or a partially managed solution where maybe the customer still wants some say in the service, we're going to offer those type of solutions as well," Sabey said. "One thing that customers are asking us about is the ability to just pay for what they want to use when they use it. So instead of the fixed long-term contracts that you typically see from a telecom provider, we're working new pricing options like 'pay for what you use when you use it.' "
Sabey also said "services on demand," which include a bandwidth-on- demand offering, were targeted for launch towards the middle of this year. Bandwidth-on-demand allows BT customers to manage the peaks and valleys of their services by logging into a web portal.
"Bandwidth-on-demand is one of the ways that we're really helping our customers solve problems as applications just become more and more bandwidth hungry," Sabey said. "We're really seeing a perfect storm of technology forming. Whether it's NFV
, software-defined networking
or software-defined WANs, all of these solutions are going to give customers greater control of their networks."
Sabey said that due to reliability, security and performance concerns there's still a place for today's legacy networks, but customers often hear from vendors that they need to rip everything out for newer technologies like SD-WAN.
"There's not one flavor that fits all so it's really a matter of BT understanding the business drivers and what customers want to accomplish," he said. "Yesterday's network isn't today's network. So it's really an ongoing process, and sometimes it takes months to do this, to get it right. Our vision really is to deliver to our customers more control over their networks."
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation