Where is uCPE Heading?

Experts say the next phase of SD-WAN will be based on universal CPE (uCPE). This is nothing new in the market (several deployment options exist for SD-WAN, including virtual CPE implementations, off-the shelf uCPE platforms, and fully managed SD-WAN services), but has proven itself to be sustain an effective business model in that it is both buyable, and provides the most value.

Interview with Nicolas Bouthors, Director of Innovation, Enea

Nicolas, where is uCPE heading?

Well, there are several really interesting whitebox alternatives out there, and Advantech, Kontron, Lanner, and others are getting really high-performing equipment out there, not only in high-spec, Xeon based versions, but also lightweight boxes with Atom-based CPUs with few cores. This has caught the attention of service providers and enterprises throughout India and South-East Asia, where CapEx is an important factor in their deployment strategy.

How do service providers and enterprises deploy their networks?

I see three main phases that everyone needs to pass through:

  • Choosing a cost-effective platform that can deploy in volumes, without sacrificing a room for scalability and functionality growth.
  • Getting their management and orchestration to work efficiently, with solutions that are open and standardized. These players need to get their OSS/BSS running smoothly to ensure decent levels of operational expenditures, and NETCONF/ONAP based systems keep the risks to a minimum. 
  • Full virtualization, and by that I mean implementing the right services and choosing the right VNFs to deliver them. Smooth deployments depend on SFC to keep the service level, performance, integrity and safety of the network, and ISPs and enterprises will need to grow the amount of VNFs that make sense to them over time, hence the scalability need.

What kind of pressure is put on the hardware and software vendors?

There are typically only so many questions that need answering, and the suppliers always need to deliver decent HW/SW platforms, with a compelling feature set, at a good footprint, and with necessary management capabilities – no news there.

What is interesting about the supplier chain is that the clients want few supplier interfaces, typically through one systems integrator. While this is convenient for the customer, it implies that the individual components in the solution not only get standardized, but also get pre-integrated to a higher degree.

Nobody wants to take risks, and right now it is still about implementing a baseline offering, which can be extended in different directions further down the line.

In summary, what is the bottom line for uCPE?

You don’t have to pick greyboxes (Cisco, etc.) for uCPE anymore, since whiteboxes (Advantech, Kontron, Lanner, etc.) with independent NFVi are now available.

This enables new uCPE solutions with great technical capabilities and tremendously attractive economical conditions.

Thank you, Nicolas!