Cisco On Its NFV Strategy: 'No One Else Comes Close'


Cisco said customer feedback to its new Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) platform showcased this week at the Mobile World Congress event has been "absolutely great," and that none of its competitors even "come close" when it comes to its NFV play.

Cisco's launch of its new Evolved Services Platform (ESP), a virtualization and orchestration software platform for carriers, came amid a tidal wave of similar NFV announcements from rivals including Hewlett-Packard, Alcatel-Lucent, Dell and Juniper.

But, despite this rush of rivals, Cisco says its NFV strategy with ESP is set to be the industry's best.   

[Related: HP Takes Aim At Cisco With Network Virtualization Offering]

"With this announcement, we are leading the way with respect to virtualization and software-defined networking," said Kelly Ahuja, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Mobility Business Group, during a webinar Wednesday at Mobile World Congress. "[Cisco's] unified platform for service providers and the Evolved Services Platform is really representing, fundamentally, a different way for operators to build and operate their networks. It's the industry's most extensive virtualization and orchestration effort, which is spanning the entire architecture: mobile, video, cloud, as well as fixed [networks] and business and consumer services. No one else comes close."

NFV, a close technology relative of software-defined networking (SDN), refers to the virtualization of Layer 4 - 7 network functions, such as firewalls, intrusion-prevention systems and load balancing. It's specifically targeted at carriers, who are embracing NFV as a way to speed up the delivery of new services and reduce operational costs. 

The technology emerged as a major theme this week at the 2014 Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona. Companies including Alcatel-Lucent, Dell and Juniper introduced new NFV technologies, with HP even announcing a new NFV business unit, to be led by HP Networking head Bethany Mayer.

Ahuja said what makes ESP different from other NFV solutions is that it doesn't just virtualize a single network function or service, but drives virtualization across a service provider's entire architecture, including cloud, video, mobile and fixed networks. In addition, Ahuja said, ESP orchestrates those virtualized functions to help service providers create and automate services in real-time.

"What we've heard from operators is that it's not just about virtualization. If you virtualize chaos, it's still chaos," Ahuja said. "You've got to not just virtualize, which is really separating the software from hardware, but you really need to take virtualization, and automation and orchestration and package them all together. That's exactly what we are doing with ESP."

Ahuja said other key attributes of ESP is that it can be used on top of third-party, or non-Cisco, networking gear, and that it's elastic, allowing service providers to scale capacity up and down as needed.

NEXT: Carriers Under Pressure To Embrace NFV