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Universal CPE Deployment

2/14/2018

Overview

With the Virtual CPE market size estimated by Markets & Markets to grow from $486.5 Million in 2016 to over $2.8 Billion by 2021, at a CAGR of 42.1% and the SD-WAN market predicted to top the 9B$ by 2021, the CPE hardware, software and services business looks set for a tectonic shift that will reshape the entire Enterprise IT industry. Markets & Markets cites the main driving factors for the vCPE market growth to include the growing demand for virtual or cloud-based solutions, benefit of cost optimization in maintaining hardware, and rising need for mobility. The SD-WAN market is driven by similar factors, including an increasing need for mobility services, reduced operating expenditures, and the need for simplified network architecture.

Challenge

Customer premise equipment (CPE) traditionally consists of provider-installed and owned, specialized hardware devices that perform dedicated network functions. Having to comply with this deployment model can be a challenge for businesses when opening new branch offices or adopting new network functions in their existing IT infrastructure. Enterprise IT needs to carefully source the appropriate solution, negotiate with a selection of suppliers, who will eventually send network technicians on site to provision and configure the CPE once the contracts are signed. The whole process is not only time and resource-consuming but expensive too. 

Solution

In a virtual CPE (vCPE) model, all the network functions can be consolidated using software-based virtual network functions (VNFs) running on top of a single universal vCPE (uCPE) appliance. The VNFs may reside inside an on-site hardware device, in an enterprise data center, or in the cloud. VNFs can also be distributed between the uCPE and the cloud in a hybrid model. When combined with Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) where the uCPE auto-installs and configures itself at power-on, both businesses and service providers can simplify operation, reduce Capex and Opex and speed up service delivery accordingly, no matter whether installing new offices or implementing a new network function.

In a virtual CPE (vCPE) model, all the network functions can be consolidated using software-based virtual network functions (VNFs) running on top of a single universal vCPE (uCPE) appliance. The VNFs may reside inside an on-site hardware device, in an enterprise data center, or in the cloud. VNFs can also be distributed between the uCPE and the cloud in a hybrid model. When combined with Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) where the uCPE auto-installs and configures itself at power-on, both businesses and service providers can simplify operation, reduce Capex and Opex and speed up service delivery accordingly, no matter whether installing new offices or implementing a new network function.

A universal vCPE platform is typically comprised of a NFVI and a number of VNFs, one of which performs the virtual router (vRouter) function if not integrated into the NFVI itself.  The vRouter executes the main CPE functions such as routing, NAT, ACLs, QoS, etc. and terminates the wide area network (WAN) connection, routing data to the VNFs running other services and ultimately forming a service chain on the vCPE platform. As such, enterprises can narrow their hardware assets investment where traditionally the router function is provided by dedicated hardware-based networking products.

Routing, security, load balancing and WAN optimization can be implemented using service chained topologies distributed across multiple virtual machines (VM) and Communication Service Providers (CSPs) can now start leveraging commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) computing hardware in order to reduce capital expenditures for dedicated networking hardware. NFV and universal vCPE are expected to enhance operational flexibility by enabling new services without the need for truck rolls. One of the key benefits is in the reduction of service deployment cycles which can be collapsed from months to hours, another incentive for CSPs and enterprises alike to deploy these technologies faster so they can gain both operational benefits and competitive advantage.

Universal vCPE embraces the all-new NFV-based model and allows for a logical and flexible separation of hardware and software. The vertical silos with vendor lock-in which previously existed are transformed into a horizontal mix-and-match approach between hardware and software vendors.

Advantech FWA-1010VC uCPE Solution 

The Advantech FWA-1010VC is a whitebox uCPE, available with a single 4 or 8-core Intel® Atom™ Processor C2000 offering a choice of performance levels to match the required workload. 2-core versions are available on request for the most cost sensitive applications with moderate performance requirements. Support for the data plane development kit (DPDK) on all network interfaces provides an increase of up to 10x in packet throughput. Support for Intel® Quickassist Technology (QAT) offers crypto and compression acceleration which offloads compute-intensive security and compression operations, freeing up CPU cores.

The ECC memory capability on the FWA-1010VC is an essential feature as it is has been a crucial and mandatory requirement in data center, cloud and enterprise IT infrastructure for many years. An optional Trusted Platform Module (TPM) acts as a root of trust and can be used for secure key storage.

The FWA-1010VC supports up to three SSDs. In an example deployment scenario, the first SSD can contain the active configuration, applications and other data, the second SSD may be used as a cost effective way to provide an emergency OS image supporting “call home” functionality and offline diagnostics. The third SSD can be used to provide more storage for caching when running virtual WAN optimization functions.

The FWA-1010VC comes with two Gigabit Ethernet ports supporting both standard fiber media (SFP) and copper (RJ45) inorder to provide maximum flexibility in connecting to the existing on-premise infrastructure without external media converters.

For WAN interfacing, the universal vCPE can connect to an MPLS carrier network as well as to the Internet via a broadband interface. This allows for services such as Hybrid/Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN) to perform application-aware traffic management providing link balancing for increased data throughput at lower cost and higher service availability. 

The FWA-1010VC is also capable of LTE wireless connectivity which can extend service availability using LTE as a backup network or to support broadband wireless access from remote locations. The combination of LTE and wireline connectivity facilitates WAN bonding where overlay VPN tunnels are created on top of the available transport links for bandwidth aggregation purposes and real-time traffic engineering can reroute traffic in case of WAN congestion or link failure.

An additional 10/100/1000Base-T Ethernet port on the unit can be used for more LAN connectivity or the implementation of a demilitarized zone (DMZ) to secure an organization's external-facing services from an untrusted network.

The four integrated copper LAN ports supporting auto crossover cabling (MDX) can be used to connect devices in the intranet. These ports are connected to an integrated Gigabit Ethernet SoHo switch inside the FWA-1010VC. This not only saves on the cost and complexity of an external switch in small office environments but also provides better system throughput as LAN-to-LAN traffic is handled automatically by the hardware switch which frees up valuable CPU cycles for better application performance offering. 

The integration of an internal WiFi module supporting 2x2 MIMO provides access point functionality. This capability not only reduces solution costs but it also leads to reduced OPEX by reducing the number of devices that need to be managed.

All of these features make the FWA-1010VC a fully integrated and cost-effective platform ideal with the right performance for small to medium business deployment running multiple VNFs in vCPE and SD-WAN deployments.

Figure 2: Advantech FWA-1010VC - rear view connectivity

Benefits

Advantech’s FWA-1010VC whitebox uCPE devices have been profiled for exact performance and feature sets and are ready for the next wave of vE-CPE and SD-WAN deployments in volume. Some of the benefits it brings are:

  • Scalability: Choose the number of cores to match the required workload. Scale up or down with the Advantech FWA-1010VC depending on your deployment needs. 
  • Simple integration: On the FWA-1010VC, the SIM card can be inserted via a small, removable plate. The simple installation procedure can be handled by untrained users. In contrast to externally attached wireless dongles, this capability secures the SIM card with the unit to avoid unwanted removal which would result in end customer service interruptions and increased support efforts for the service provider. 
  • Easy configuration: Advantech provides a quick start image (QSI) to assist customers at the start of the development process. Boot up the FWA-1010VC without wasting time in building the operating system and finding the right drivers.
  • Rich Ethernet connectivity options: Dual-media WAN, Wireless, WiFi and copper LAN ports support allows the FWA-1010VC to span complete rollouts no matter which infrastructure is present in a given location. This helps not only streamline logistics and service models but also to offer significant benefits in terms of life-cycle management and total cost of ownership. 
  • Global logistic: Advantech’s worldwide service availabilities assist customers’ global maintenance and service support.
  • Complete deployment offering: Advantech has been working with multiple leading software partners to certify the FWA-1010VC and deliver customers with a ready-to-deploy solution.

For the New IP Infrastructure, Advantech’s NFV Elasticity framework extends NFV from the datacenter to the network edge, by providing a wide range of enabling hardware platforms that can run VNFs anywhere in the network. When coupled with Advantech’s Remote-Evaluation-Service (RES), operators, integrators and software-vendors can rapidly validate the latest NFV Infrastructure (NFVI) on Advantech universal vCPE platforms for evaluation and performance benchmarking purposes and to match workloads with the right hardware payloads. 

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