nehibBy Greg Nehib, Senior Marketing Manager, Cisco

Part 2 – Virtualized Services in an EPN World?

In part one of this series Gina covered the basic definition of an Evolved Programmable Network or EPN and its linkage to the Cisco Evolved Services Platform (ESP).   Figure 1 offers a quick visual recap.

Figure 1:  Cisco’s Open Network Strategy


And here’s a link to part one of this blog series if you need to play catch up.

In this segment we will focus on the virtualized service offering that can be created from this architecture, because after all, revenue generation is still the name of the game!  We have all seen the growth projections of video, mobility, the cloud, and the Internet of Things (IoT), and as I am writing this blog the Cisco VNI update was just published.  How timely!

The latest update to the VNI states that global IP traffic will grow almost 300% from 2013 to 2018 resulting in 1.6 zettabytes annually by 2018.  By comparison, the previous version of the VNI indicated that global IP traffic would reach 1.3 zettabytes annually by 2017, so the pace of change should be fairly well expected at this point.  More interesting to me is that all of the global IP traffic that has been generated from 1984 to 2013 has been pegged at 1.3 zettabytes.  It took us about 30 years to generate the packet flow that will be surpassed in a single year in 2018.  If you like change this should be music to your ears.  And if you don’t like change, good luck hanging onto your T1 or Frame Relay service much longer.

Sometimes drastic service growth like this can bust the industry out of a rut.  It has the potential to make us re-think how we have built networks and delivered services up to this point.  As examples, I would use IP video distribution and IP voice in the early 2000’s, and more recently LTE in the mobility space.  In all three of these cases the pace of change literally forced the industry out of the rut of “business as usual”.  It just so happened that these three transitions converged networks onto IP/MPLS.  But then there was the cloud era.  And the cloud era was something that even IP couldn’t conquer by itself.

Enter software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) and virtualized services.  These services typically still include IP/MPLS, but the management model is much more refined.  Services could even be multi-layer and chained together for certain customers or applications.  I am getting ahead of myself, but the point here is that the notion of “services” is not only growing, but getting much more dynamic and extremely customizable through virtualization.  And that’s where we can create a better value for our end users.

Why an Evolved Programmable Network with Virtualized Services?

If you would like to review the challenges that providers are facing today see the Cisco EPN At-A-Glance.  Or I can summarize: Extreme Growth + Declining Revenue = Bad News for Business as Usual

The guys in the data center crossed this bridge before those of us on the Service Provider networking side.  And in many ways the data center’s operational challenges for Big Data parallel the exponential growth pain points that providers see in their production networks.  Just imagine if every “app” in the data center needed a 6 month service window to change its storage or compute resource utilization or geography.  Services like virtualized mobile internet for premium mobile broadband have quite a few of the same challenges with regard to utilization and geography and the need for instant gratification.

With the virtualized service being offered to the end user from a catalog of capabilities via a services portal, the ESP layer can orchestrate a myriad of service changes to the EPN as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2:  Cisco’s Virtualized Mobile Internet Service


So why can’t I do this with my old router?  In some cases you might be able to.  It’s going to take a pretty sophisticated solution to provide a virtualized instantiation of network resources, storage resources, and compute resources for the IoT.

We tend to think of virtualization as the SDN and NFV and WAN Orchestration that occurs in the ESP layer.  In reality, that virtualization should extend down into the network and the data center creating a network fabric of virtual service instances.  These virtual service instances could be multi-layer in nature and they could even run in hypervisors on an EPN powered network element.  Bottom line, this is a new class of device that’s built around agnostic fabrics with a robust route processor and shelf processor complex.  The linecards in a system like this will determine its personality.  Virtual machines in the EPN layer will spawn virtualized service instances on command as directed by the ESP layer.  It’s like synchronized swimming for networks.

What should carriers consider as they look to transform their services in the EPN Era?

Here’s what it takes to make an EPN that delivers virtualized services:

  1. Virtualization
  2. Programmability and Control
  3. Convergence

IPv6 also has a major role in service delivery for EPN and that was highlighted in part 1 of this blog.  Beyond the address scale and end-to-end addressing capability of IPv6, it also enables service flexibility.  The power of Policy Based Routing (PBR) is massively streamlined when the policy information is contained in the IPv6 source and destination addresses.  In the age of virtualized services PBR will become increasingly important as fine grained policy control of individual packet flows will aid in network efficiency.  See more on PBR here.

Other capabilities like Segment Routing are also enhanced by IPv6.  While Segment Routing is praised for its ease of deployment and operation, Segment routing is also perfect to scale the network with high resiliency and virtualization capabilities via IPv6 traffic engineering.  Segment routing with IPv6 offers a simple, highly programmable network that’s responsive to rapid changes because the state information is no longer in the network, it’s in the packet.  Here’s a link to more information on Segment Routing.

You could call this a networking renaissance period focused on the delivery of virtualized services.  Features like IPv6, PBR, and Segment Routing all figure into the long term vision of scale with simplicity.  The Cisco EPN and ESP solutions are poised to take full advantage of all of these capabilities.  Hopefully this blog gave you a small taste of why service virtualization is important.  At a minimum it should provide good fodder for your next meeting with your Cisco account representative.

Why Cisco?

The Cisco Evolved Programmable Network (EPN) provides the essential capabilities that service providers need to expand their business models and accelerate time to revenue for new services. Cisco software and hardware solutions offer the following benefits:

  • Easy to buy: The Cisco EPN provides flexible purchasing opportunities for both physical and virtual assets, allowing for the provider’s architecture to be open, programmable, virtualized, resilient, and secure across the core, edge, access, optical, and data center.
  • Easy to deploy: The Cisco EPN working in conjunction with the Cisco ESP requires fewer tools and is based on entirely open interfaces to enable multivendor deployment.
  • Easy to sell new services: Cisco EPN automation and orchestration capabilities help simplify the creation of new services, accelerate the sales process, and improve time to market while increasing revenue growth from personalized high-value services.
  • Easy to manage: Service providers using the Cisco EPN can dynamically shift application and service workloads between resources to reduce costs.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of our EPN Blog Series.

To learn more, contact your local Cisco account representative, or visit the following site.


Greg Smith

Sr. Manager, Marketing

Cisco Solutions Marketing