This post continues from our previous post detailing Iricent’s key takeaways from the recent SD-WAN & SASE 2022 conference and exhibition in Paris (Nov 8/9th.)

SD-WAN  & SASE Deployments – Only as Good as the Underlying Network

A leading SP in introducing their “on-demand” SD-WAN service used the following analogies:

In today’s digital economy customers can:-

  • Place an order and it is delivered the next day
  • Book a taxi via an app and it turns up in minutes
  • Spin up IT services via the public cloud in minutes

However, most telecoms services are still ordered and delivered in the same way they were 20 years ago, i.e. delivery in weeks, manual configuration, etc.

Key customer demands and network considerations:

  • Portal access, API integration, self-service real-time visibility and control
  • Automated delivery
  • Change on demand to meet business requirements / infrastructure as a service
  • Secure, reliable, scalable connectivity and superb QoE

In other words data driven network automation coupled with workflow and business process integration including CPQ (Configure, Price & Quote) as described in our post “Layer123 Reunion: Intelligent Network Automation Congress – Some Key Takeaways” is required to transform the way that network services are ordered and delivered. 

A New Beginning for uCPE – Universal CPE

A number of contributions covered the need for Network Function Virtualization (NFV) based universal CPE (uCPE) deployments to overcome technological, operational, market access and commercial challenges relating to delivery of SD-WAN and SASE services. 

NFV and uCPE – two related technologies that have been around for some years and whose time to shine has now arrived –  enable users to replace proprietary dedicated appliances with their choice of applications on their choice of open hardware.  The resultant software-defined network infrastructure solutions enable cloud-native microservice architectures for seamless web-scale open compute, networking and storage, thereby, bringing the power and benefits of the cloud to the telco network.

uCPE is a general-purpose (usually x86 based) server hosting network services (such as SD WAN, firewall, etc.) as virtual network functions (VNFs) as well as network edge applications. The disaggregation of hardware and software functions in such white-box solutions paves the way to an open ecosystem avoiding vendor lock-in and creating new business opportunities. 

uCPE  brings to telcos the benefits of open virtualisation technologies addressing scalability, cost and environmental issues as well as simplifying operations and site deployments.

Disadvantages associated with dedicated appliance SD-WAN and SASE solutions include:

  • Proliferation of devices
  • Vendor lock-in
  • Incompatible with the need for innovation and flexibility in service offerings

NFV based uCPE services are particularly well suited to managed, wholesale and white-label SD-WAN service deployments. The service provider and / or end user enterprise are free to choose Network and IT functions from a VNF catalogue including a range of leading SD-WAN and security solutions.

NFV based uCPE features and benefits:

  • Openness and scalability
  • Large and growing range of VNFs from leading networking vendors 
  • Compatibility with edge computing within the same hardware architecture
  • uCPE installed on customer sites using ZTP – Zero Touch Provisioning – meaning on-site interventions reduced to the minimum
  • Eco-friendly: Less equipment, less power, less on-site activity

Management and orchestration (MANO) is the key enabler of NFV and uCPE

  • Simplifies uCPE and edge compute deployment and operation
  • Zero touch provisioning (ZTP) resulting in efficient turnup of new sites
  • Easier service management – adds, moves, changes 
  • Proven integration to other systems including 
    • SD-WAN controllers 
    • OSS/BSS
    • User portals 

Different MANO operational models presented:

  • Self-managed MANO
  • SaaS MANO and managed uCPE

Benefits of SaaS MANO & managed uCPE

  • Simplifies and accelerates virtual service deployment for faster time to market
  • Simplifies operational model 
  • SaaS hosting option can significantly reduce operational costs 
  • Ideal for occasional adds, moves and changes
  • Compatible with the SaaS business model for other enterprise services delivery and consumption

In all, this was two days well spent in Paris and the event itself was well organised and run. It was good to see the progress being made with SD-WAN and that the technology itself is increasingly becoming more mainstream as the real benefits are better understood. It was also good to see some real world examples of uCPE where clear benefits to both telcos and end user companies are being realised.

As always, if you would like to get more details on any of the topics mentioned or are considering an SD-WAN or SASE based deployment but not sure where to start, feel free to reach out to us at or via the contact page here and we will be happy to discuss and advise.