Boingo ties with Procera to virtualize hotspots

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Much of the virtualization focus in the early part of this year has been on the virtual CPE, a theme which is set to continue at Mobile World Congress. But while many of the interesting trials are being done by mobile and cable operators, one of the first commercial breakthroughs has come from the WiFi community, and managed hotspot provider Boingo Networks.

Boingo is in the early stages of virtualizing its network of hotspots to reduce the need for hardware roll-out and support traffic more efficiently. As WiFi networks move towards carrier-class performance and become highly strategic to operators such as cablecos, they need to adopt the same kind of optimization and QoS techniques which are more familiar in cellular. And many are looking at the cost efficiencies and flexibility of doing that on off-the-shelf hardware.

So Boingo is deploying Procera Networks’ PacketLogic/V solution to shape network traffic and improve the customer experience at WiFi hotspots, with the supplier claiming that the latest release of the software can match the raw performance of a hardware CPE, achieving 150Gbps on an off-the-shelf Intel platform.

The WiFi provider has installed PacketLogic/V to apply granular profiles to traffic, delivering classes of service that are tailored to different customers. This is part of the company’s recently announced Smart Network initiative which includes the roll-out of NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) in several areas.

“Procera’s platform is a great fit for our NFV-driven architecture,” said Boingo CTO Derek Peterson, in a statement. “Their ability to deliver a fully virtualized PacketLogic solution enabled Boingo to achieve the ROI that we needed for our business model. We evaluated hardware-based solutions, but they did not meet our cost or deployment flexibility requirements.”

Smart (Secure, Multiplatform, Analytics-driven, Responsive and Tiered) is all about matching quality of service to different users – or in Boingo’s case, roaming partners such as cablecos too – in order to use network resources more efficiently and target them where they are most needed, while improving the customer experience, especially for high value customers and services.  The company sees virtualization as a way to increase the dynamic aspect of this goal while controlling costs.

Boingo’s first NFV deployments were in five US airports including Dallas/Fort Worth.

PacketLogic/V delivers the full suite in a software-only form, and the vCPE element supports Procera’s DPI (deep packet inspection), analytics and actions tools in an ‘as a service’ offering (the hardware-based versions are still available too).

Meanwhile, the vendor said separately that it vCPE options were now achieving the same raw performance as their hardware equivalents.  Procera has harnessed the virtualization trend aggressively to move out of its original DPI niche and towards a far broader customer experience management play, which can optimize the network based on traffic flows or individual users or applications.

Head of marketing Cam Cullen said that it was important to address the perception that software-based solutions would necessarily involve a performance compromise, before engaging in many high level contract discussions. An important element of that has been Procera’s participation in Intel’s Network Buildings program, which has helped identify and address any issues which were impacting performance. That program has helped Procera increase performance, on an Intel Xeon E5 v3-based platform, by 40Gbps to hit the 150Gbps target.

 

 

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Caroline has been analyzing and reporting in the hi-tech industries since 1986 and has a huge wealth of experience of technology trends and how they impact on business models. She started her career as a journalist, specializing in enterprise and carrier networks and in silicon technologies. She spent much of her journalistic career at VNU Business Publishing, then Europe’s largest producer of technology publications and information services . She was publishing director for the launch of VNU’s pan-European online content services, and then European editorial director. She then made the move from publishing into technology market analysis and consulting, and in 2002 co-founded Rethink Technology Research with Peter White. Rethink specializes in trends and business models for wireless, converged and quad play operators round the world and the technologies that support them. Caroline’s role is to head up the wireless side of the business, leading the creation of research, newsletters and consulting services focused on mobile platforms and operator models. In this role, she has become a highly recognized authority on 4G systems such as LTE and WiMAX, and a prolific speaker at industry events. Consulting and research clients come from major mobile operators, the wireless supply chain and financial institutions.