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Masergy's NFV platform: An app store for virtual network functions

Masergy's new NFV platform acts like an app store for virtual network functions. One possible hurdle: Convincing enterprises the software is secure.

Service provider Masergy Communications launched a virtual network functions (VNF) sales portal this month that is designed to make it easier for enterprises to deploy virtualized services across their networks. Customers can use the portal, called Virtual f(n), like an app store, purchasing and downloading the software they want to use. Software-based Brocade routers and Fortinet firewalls are the first products available. A WAN accelerator and session border controller software will be offered later this summer, Masergy said.

IDC research manager Nav Chander said this model will allow enterprises to spin up new services even in remote branch offices, without installing cumbersome, specialized hardware onsite.

"At the end of the day you don't need an IT staff; you don't need tons of people in those remote offices to know anything about networking anymore," he said.

Chander said Virtual f(n) is unique and that he hasn't seen any other U.S. sites that offer virtualized software on the portal's level. AT&T's Network On Demand, a multi-vendor platform that represents a broad array of products, is not as focused or strategic as Virtual f(n), which is offering a more tightly curated array of VNFs, Chander said.

"I think it's a significant accomplishment," he said. "It's not easy to transform these big telcos, or even Masergy, in terms of all of these functional parts of delivering a service … They managed to develop this platform strategy and implement it very quickly."

If Masergy wants to lure enterprise customers, however, Chandler said it needs to prove to both enterprises and software vendors that the NFV platform is flawless from a security standpoint. Enterprises are adopting cloud-based services in growing numbers. However, without the reassurance of a secure environment, they might be slow to replace their networking appliances with software-based applications.

To assuage enterprises' fears, Chander said that Masergy must show them security data, proving that the software-defined applications are as secure as the physical appliances they replace. Some enterprises may still choose to ease into NFV, adopting a mixed environment that includes both virtual network functions and traditional hardware.

"There's going to be sort of a transition there, a hybrid mix of these new virtualized services and legacy equipment," he said.

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