vCPE (virtual customer premises equipment)

Contributor(s): Alissa Irei

Virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE) is a way to deliver network services such as routing, firewall security and virtual private network connectivity to enterprises by using software rather than dedicated hardware devices. By virtualizing CPE, providers can dramatically simplify and accelerate service delivery, remotely configuring and managing devices and allowing customers to order new services or adjust existing ones on demand.

Traditionally, customer premises equipment (CPE) consists of provider-owned, specialized hardware devices deployed to branch office locations. Providers must send network technicians onsite to provision and configure CPE, which means that deployment of new services can be time-consuming and expensive. In contrast, vCPE, also known as cloud CPE, abstracts the intelligence of such devices into software-based functionality that resides in a remote data center. The software runs on top of simple, inexpensive, on-site hardware. This model also allows the consolidation of specialized, individual devices into one general purpose box, both for convenience and cost-effectiveness.

Some research indicates that vCPE is one of the top drivers of network functions virtualization deployment, because of its potential to simplify operations, reduce Capex and Opex and speed service delivery.

This was last updated in March 2016

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How important is vCPE in driving NFV deployment?
This is a dated article, however, it is pertinent as 4G-Advanced and 5G networks are being implemented.

Full service-level virtualization requires that CPE's, as well as network equipment and software, are virtualized in order to free up the allocation of hardware, network capacity and for that to work harmoniously with the customer and third-party capabilities.

"... In contrast, vCPE, also known as cloud CPE, abstracts the intelligence of such devices into software-based functionality that resides in a remote data center."This is partly correct: The CPE functionality can reside in the local hardware/firmware or elsewhere. The 'elsewhere' can be at a local smallcell base station, a specialized function network-attached server such as a media server. Both hardware and software function have been virtualized and can reside where they are best suited. That can be at a centralized data center or at a local node on the network or on multiple locations. That increases robustness, lowers latency, increases redundancy, reduces single-point-of-failure.


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