Five Tips to a Successful Virtualized Enterprise Edge Deployment

To accelerate digital transformation and deliver a higher-quality customer experience, enterprises across multiple industries are attempting to shift to a “virtualized” IT and network environment.  In this context, “virtualized” refers to the evolution from a hardware-centric enterprise edge to a software-centric environment.  This entails replacing numerous physical network devices and application servers in each location with virtual network functions and application workloads uploaded to a single physical device.  Examples include SD-WAN, Virtual Router, Virtual Firewall, Secure Access Service Edge, and others. 

Enterprises that make the shift to a virtualized environment are reaping plenty of benefits, including greater operational agility, stronger security, improved reliability, and substantial cost savings

While the benefits of a virtualized enterprise edge infrastructure are many, transitioning from a physical branch environment to a virtualized environment can be a complex endeavor, especially when there are multiple virtual network functions involved from different vendors. Despite their initial enthusiasm many enterprises struggle to get a virtualized infrastructure deployed successfully, while others have delayed projects or cancelled plans altogether.  

Based upon Ciena’s experience deploying over five thousand virtual edge appliances worldwide, the following is a list of top five tips to ensure a timely and smooth transition to a virtualized enterprise edge. Ciena subject matter experts will discuss these and other challenges along with recommendations to avoid them, at our speaking session during the ONUG Spring 2022 event.  

Tip #1: Virtualization isn’t just loading a bunch of VNF’s onto a device and expecting them to work. 
There is a lot of up-front integration work that needs to go into making sure the VNFs can be onboarded easily and interoperate with each other.  A successful virtualization deployment takes a lot of planning, technical knowledge, solution testing, deployment logistics, life cycle management and other considerations to successfully transform their enterprise infrastructure

Tip #2: Don’t try to deploy every VNF at the same time. 
Ciena recommends that enterprises take a measured, step-by-step approach to virtualization.  Begin with the network function most critical to enabling digital transformation, and then add other VNFs.  For example, many enterprises start with virtualized SD-WAN, then add a virtual firewall, router or cloud-based security and then continue with virtual application servers. Enterprises can begin the process when physical devices across their locations are due for replacement.  

Tip #3: Avoid vendor lock-in. 
There are a variety of virtualized edge solution vendors in the market, but many of them typically restrict the customer’s options and ability to make a change if a VNF isn’t working out.  Enterprise customers should be able to choose the VNF and virtualized applications that best meets their business needs in a “best of breed” approach.  They also should have the flexibility to change VNF vendors when needed. 

Tip #4: Choose the right universal premises equipment (uCPE).  
If you consolidate numerous physical devices into one hardware platform, you want to make sure that the single device is “carrier-grade”, which means it provides high performance and high availability.  In addition to the carrier grade uCPE, be sure it comes with a full stack of software infrastructure for virtualization.  It should also include software-based orchestration, which allows large-scale deployments in a highly automated and extremely efficient manner.  

Tip #5: Seek a partner with strong systems integration capabilities.  
Multi-element, multi-vendor, and disaggregated virtualized technologies require a systems integration process. Within that process, there are many key activities that are critical to a successful deployment.  Some key systems integration activities include:

  • Preparing the uCPE resource requirements definition and the complex end-to-end network function virtualization solution designs.
  • Architecting and designing the virtual network function descriptors and network service descriptors or service chaining to combine the various VNFs.  
  • Testing the service chains to ensure the performance of the solution meets the enterprise users’ requirements.
  • Deploying the solution across the enterprise network which involves setting up the logistics process including things like staging, on-site installation and zero touch provisioning.
  • Supporting the solution through its entire lifecycle, including the management and validation of new software releases across the different components of the solution

In the shift to a software-centric, virtualized environment, each customer’s journey will be different, and their needs are often unique to them. That’s why enterprises need to seek a partner that has an open, flexible approach to virtualization, along with significant systems integration experience deploying virtualized edge solutions across multiple industries.  This allows enterprises to adopt the solution at a pace that suits them, with the confidence that they have chosen a future-proof platform that can be adapted as their requirements evolve. The right partner can help you avoid the complexities of the virtualization journey, “future-proof” your infrastructure and enable you to quickly achieve significant cost savings and return on investment.

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Author's Bio

Daniele Loffreda

Head of Enterprise Solutions Marketing, Ciena
Daniele Loffreda is Marketing Lead for Ciena’s Virtualized Edge Solution. In this role he leads Ciena’s initiatives applying technologies that converge network, security and compute to help service provider and enterprise customers improve the efficiency of remote branch locations, reduce operational expense, evolve towards a multi-cloud edge, and deliver a higher quality experience to their customers. Daniele has more than 25 years of experience helping customers leverage Information, Communications and Technology solutions provide greater value, streamline their operations and generate higher returns on network investments. In addition to his current role at Ciena, Daniele has worked in pioneering sales roles at AT&T, Sprint and Fujitsu. He has presented at numerous industry conferences, and published articles and posts on next generation network connectivity as a critical foundation of enterprise transformation.