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Virtual CPE architecture – new network infrastructures

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Today, residential and enterprise environments are evolving rapidly due to an increasing number of devices that will be part of our lives in the near future. Upcoming technologies like Internet of Things (IoT) are going to have a huge impact on today’s network deployments. Furthermore, the upcoming intelligent devices introduce the need of new services, in order to meet the customer’s requirements and efficiently support both new and existing devices.

The traditional CPE cannot easily adapt and is not flexible enough to host the rapid introduction of new services. Instead, the equipment is getting more and more complex and harder to maintain. This is due to the complexity of manual configuration for each additional hardware device or for maintenance and re-configuration of the CPE. Virtual CPE on the other hand, is a very promising scenario that brings new benefits and opportunities on board, like Operational Expenditure (OpEx) and Capital Expenditure (CapEx) reduction and improved Time to Market (TTM) through faster introduction of new services.

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Traditional CPE. Today, most customers have devices such as smartphones, laptops, desktop PCs or even Smart TVs connected to the internet through their CSP (Communication Service Provider) of choice. The amount of devices that need to be connected to the internet is increasing continuously. CPE is the demarcation point, which connects the customer network site​​ to the Service Provider’s Network. According to the CPE architecture, in the customer network site several peripheral hardware devices need to be deployed, where services are being implemented. An example of this architecture can be seen in the figure below: “Traditional CPE Architecture”. The CPE is already complex and the introduction of new services usually requires either the installation of additional peripheral devices, in order to deploy those services (e.g. firewall, load balancer, VPN etc.), or even to replace the existing CPE. Obviously, CPE complexity is not the answer, because the introduction of new services is complex and slow.

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Traditional-CPE Evolved CPE – vCPE. Virtual CPE addresses the upcoming challenges effectively, by virtualising most of the CPE functions in the network. Virtual CPE aims to provide the minimum required hardware at the customer site and to move traditional CPE functions to the CSP network. Services are virtualised in the CSP site, virtual instances like Virtualised Network Functions (VNFs) are orchestrated by the NFV orchestrator and the overall network is controlled and maintained by the SDN controller, which applies the overall policy of the network. NFV and SDN provides an easier and efficient way to control the network resources according to the organisation needs through programmability. An example of the evolved architecture is illustrated in the figure below: “Evolved CPE – Virtual CPE”.​​ ​Virtual-CPE-at-CSP-site Virtual CPE paradigm provides dynamic services on demand and introduces new service models such as click-and-play, try-and-buy, pay-as-you-go etc. This enables a better user experience, through value added services such as parental control, customer network appliance management, WAN optimisation and security enhancement. With vCPE, deploying a new service or even turning down a service is not a great eff​ort anymore.

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vCPE Potential Approaches. There are 3 potential solutions in the vCPE use case. The first one is to virtualise all CPE functions into the CSP network site as it is depicted by the figure above.

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The other two solutions are, first to have distributed virtualisation of services between the customer network site and the CSP network site, and second, to have all the functions virtualised locally without any data centre involved, as depicted in the figures below: “vCPE – Virtualised functions are distributed between the customer and the service provider site”

Virtual-CPE-distributedand “vCPE – All functions are virtualised locally at the customer site”. ​Virtual-CPE-at-customer-siteThe best solution is to have the services virtualised where it is most appropriate according to the organisation’s needs, which may be based on performance, feasibility, security, policies, financial aspects, etc.


Based on the evolution of CPE and the adoption of vCPE a number of benefits and opportunities can be realised both by enterprises and service providers. The following list provides some examples.

  • CapEx reduction: less hardware footprint
  • Operational Benefits & OpEx reduction: customer self-service installation, easier support and maintenance through software and rapid introduction of new services easier and faster
  • Benefits to Enterprise​: faster availability of new services, subscription to services on demand and pay as you use and t​here is no downtime for upgrade/failures


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The vCPE paradigm is very promising and aims to make both customer and CSP life easier. Current CPE deployments are getting more and more complex, and are no longer able to provide efficient and effective ways to deploy both new and existing services that will satisfy and meet customer’s needs in the near future. This is where the concept of vCPE comes in with a solution to the problem and brings to the surface new opportunities for business and revenue.

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Finally, in order to deploy vCPE implementations and realise the full benefits, it is important for an organisation to consider the most appropriate location for the virtualised functions, according to the customer’s needs and requests, as well as considering feasibility, performance, costs and policies.​​


Through its distinct competencies, Sytel Reply assists clients in realising the benefits and dealing with the impacts of the disrupting technologies on their environments. Sytel Reply leverages real-world experience in SDN & NFV consulting for the TMT market, having worked with global Telco providers and established strong relationships with all major SDN vendors.

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