As Service Providers move more and more towards softwarization and move away from hardware centric solutions, a question may arise: Does a purpose-built hardware CPE has any place in all this?
After all, a purpose-built CPE from a vendor comes with a strictly integrated software that leaves a service provider locked with that vendor with few functions to choose from.
Also, this leaves the service provider tied to the vendor’s roadmap for any new features, let alone losing flexibility of offering multiple functions in one box.
In addition, this leaves the service provider tied to the vendor’s roadmap for any new features. A hardware centric CPE is not flexible to provide many new innovative services NFV promises.
In fact, the “disaggregation” that is happening in communication today, can offer a service provider far better options.
For example, a universal CPE solves the above issues and many more.
And one of the hot use cases for universal CPE is SD-WAN. We believe SD-WAN platform based on uCPE can provide the best ROI for a service provider (it can provide many virtualized network functions besides SD-WAN) and we list three reasons/benefits as below.
But before that a word about what is uCPE.
What is uCPE?
Traditional CPE (Customer Premises equipment) comprises purpose-built hardware that provides dedicated functions provided by the vendor of that hardware, for example router, firewall or a switch, etc.
On the other hand, uCPE or universal customer premises equipment is an open and disaggregated platform that enables virtual functions run on commercial off the shelf (COTS) hardware.
So, it is natural to call such CPE as universal as it offers a true disaggregated CPE where a service provider can offer many functions based on COTs platform such as x86 server.
There are many reasons to move to uCPE, but we list here the top three reasons/benefits service providers should opt for universal CPE instead of dedicated physical CPE.
Benefit 1: One hardware, Many functions
This is the biggest benefit of uCPE. As software is disaggregated from hardware, there is a lot of flexibility for a service provider to run any CPE function. Apps can run as standalone or as service chains. The Service Provider might upsell more functions to the customer.
Most likely, a Service Provider can start as an SD-WAN only offering. Then with time as the customer needs grow, the service provider can add more virtual network functions to the same box thanks to NFV (Network functions virtualization) like PBX, routing, WAN optimization and security services like firewall, IDS, IPS etc. without adding more hardware.
For the service provider, it is an opportunity to upsell. For the end user, it is a benefit of using less hardware as one hardware can do all functions, with no dedicated box for each function. Not to forget the use of less hardware means less power and space requirements.
Benefit 2: Reduced costs; No vendor lock-in
The biggest driver for SD-WAN is reducing costs of WAN (Wide Area Network) connectivity.
Isn’t it ?
Then why leave the CPEs out ?
The economies of scale favour platforms based on x86. They are manufactured in abundance because they fulfil many diverse needs and secondly there is a lot of competition in this area.
This benefits the end user, as he has more choices to choose from, thus bringing down the overall costs of the platform.
Also, a customer can mix and match between vendors. He can change the software vendors and also the hardware vendors. There is no compulsion for him to buy hardware from a particular brand; he can also replace the software vendors if he is not satisfied.
Benefit 3: Fewer hardware configurations; Simple maintenance
SD-WAN is all about simplicity and uCPE can help here.
One of the major benefits for a service provider is the reduced inventory of the hardware. Only a few SKUs are needed for the hardware.
For example, small branch offices may need a point solution with a simple configuration that runs only SD-WAN app, a medium branch may need a few apps while a data center/central offices may need high end uCPEs with high capacity and performance. All these translate to a few uCPE configurations. These standard configurations can simplify the procurement of the hardware as there are reduced negotiations with vendors on price and delivery. Above all, this results in reducing the overall maintenance costs and reduced truck rolls.
So that’s it, an overview on what is uCPE? and why they are important in SD-WAN’s context
About Lanner’s uCPE platforms for SD-WAN
Lanner offers a complete range white box and vCPE/uCPE platforms for a wide variety of applications that include Open RAN, Edge computing, NFV, SDN and SD-WAN.
LANNER vCPEs / uCPEs devices are pre-tested/pre-integrated with major SD-WAN and VNF software suppliers . Solutions range from platforms for small branch offices/remote locations to big data centers with complete software/cloud stacks through its partners for centralized management/control and zero touch provisioning. Both desktops or rack mounted servers provide an Intel® x86 multi core processor for running multiple virtualized network functions (VNFs), hardware acceleration like DPDK, Intel® Quick Assist, SR-IOV and wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi / 4g/LTE.