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What is uCPE?

What is uCPE?

uCPE (Universal Customer Premise Equipment) is one single device capable of handling multiple network functions. For example, Routing, Switching, Firewall, Load Balancer, etc functions hosted in a single device called a uCPE. You can simply say it a software-based CPE. uCPE is mainly used as a replacement of standard CE/WAN/edge device present at customer premises, in the SD-WAN deployment.

In order to decrease operatinal expenditure, the network service providers have been utilizing the methods and techniques to decrease operational costs (OPEX) and this requirement has shifted us to quickly adapt the vitualization technology using which almost all of HW devices  functionality is now delivered virtually as software(also called Virtual Network Functions of VNFs).
Now a days, all these different VNFs can run on a universal CPE, placed in a central or branch location. a uCPE is to telcom networks what the App Store is to Smartphones. Neutral, 100% software, and always driving new applications.

Why uCPE?

Traditional and conventional  customer-premises equipment (CPE or CE) relied on hardware-based functionality known as Physical Network Functions. These consisted of provider-owned, specialized hardware devices, that perform dedicated network functions, that would then be deployed to customer premise or data centers. This also required HW and SW upgradation on time to time basis which required extensive man hours.

Having to comply with this model can be a challenge for businesses when opening new branch offices or adopting new network functions in their existing IT infrastructure or switching vendors. Enterprise needs to carefully source the appropriate solution, find the right hardware, negotiate with a suppliers, send network technicians on site to provision and configure the CPE. The whole process is not only time and resource-consuming, but expensive.

On the other hand, uCPE model changes this physical requirement and demand into a software-based functionality that resides in generic hardware and a vendor independent virtualization platform. This model allows the consolidation of specialized devices into one general purpose box or a server, much like how different personal physical items such as  camera, radio, calculator, GPS device, music player etc.  are turned into software functions (or apps) and consolidated into a smartphone.

uCPE is the next step in an ongoing evolution of the intelligent network, and one that puts more control into the hands of the end customer. Moving to virtualization is a key part of digital transformation and has obvious benefits, from lower costs to easier and quicker deployment and the ability to move much faster.

What is Network Function Virtualization?

Network Function Virtualization a technique to create, distribute and operate networking services. It is the process of separating network functions from dedicated hardware appliances so that they may run in software on standardized hardware. These functions (such as a firewalls or load balancers) become virtual network functions (VNFs).

The virtualization of network services via software provides following benefits to the operators:

  • Helps reduce capital expenditure (CAPEX) by lowering the need to purchase purpose-built hardware.
  • Helps reduce operational expenditure(OPEX) through reduced equipment running requirements (e.g. space to house, power to run etc.), and simplifying roll-out.
  • Helps accelerate time-to-market to new opportunities.
  • Helps minimizing the risk of rolling out new services by allowing providers to trial and evolve, or even roll back services as the customer needs them
  • Helps become more agile and on-demand, driving a better customer experience.

uCPE is the Future

With increasing customer expectations from their network, both in terms of performance and bandwidth but also when it comes to flexibility and responsiveness in operation of the networks.

While cloud computing emerged in the era of virtualization for enterprise IT and LAN infrastructure, bringing about a significant shift in how IT services are deployed and exploited, the impact was barely felt in the WAN side of things until SD-WAN came into existence. If virtualization is being introduced for enterprises in the enterprise IT and LAN infrastructure, why not for the WAN?

With the uCPE model, 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 centre, or in the cloud. VNFs can also be commissioned 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 their operations, reduce Capex and Opex and speed up service delivery accordingly, no matter whether installing new offices or implementing a new network function or changing vendors.

Benefits of using a uCPE

  • A uCPE can be configured using commodity Hardware (x86 Servers) using open-source software. For example, Linux(KVM hypervisor), VM Ware(ESXI), Openstack.
  • You can configure any network service over uCPE using VNF and NFV technologies. For example a Router, a Switch, a Firewall, an IDS or IPS, a Load Balancer, etc.
  • uCPE is a plug and play kind of equipment also referred to as Zero Touch deployment.
  • uCPE can be controlled Centrally from a centralized server (hosted on the internet or a provider's cloud or datacenter) by the service provider. The admin/Service provider can deploy any new VNF, do modifications in network policies, monitor the uCPE statistics and performance remotely.
  • Configuring uCPE is flexible and scalable. A uCPE configured at a branch office can scale to a head office by dynamic integration of multiple other services on the same uCPE.

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