Q&A: Verizon's Eric Cevis discusses what wholesale customers want

LOS ANGELES—Last year, Verizon Partner Solutions President Eric Cevis spoke at MEF17 about application-aware networking, which he provided an update on during a chat with FierceTelecom prior to his keynote address Tuesday morning.  

"We're continuing to drive that [application-aware networking] forward by partnering with a number of carriers in this particular space today," said Cevis. "We're starting to see more and more opportunity here, particularly in the IoT arena and especially as we continue to see more movement in the cloud space. How do we leverage some of the work in the cloud space there? We feel very confident that you'll see and hear more from us coming in the first quarter of 2019 relative to application-aware networking and the work we're doing with a couple partners in this particular space."

In this FierceTelecom Q&A, which was edited for length and clarity, Cevis spoke about MEF's LSO Sonata API—which MEF announced on Monday morning was now in a developer-release stage—SDN, 5G and the importance of fiber.

FierceTelecom: What are you hearing from your wholesale customers in regards to services or applications that they want?

Eric Cevis: I think the biggest thing we're hearing a lot is it's more about this digital economy and digital transformation. At the end of the day, how do we leverage the fact that more and more bandwidth is required? And based upon that bandwidth requirement, how do you use more software to allow you to drive that? I think that's the whole basis behind software-defined networking and dealing with more virtualization so that you can drive more and more applications to the edge. Closer to the end user, so therefore, you get rid of latency and those things associated with it. Everybody wants it in real time, real time like yesterday. How soon can I get it? We need to be agile and flexible enough to allow the network to respond and give people that real-time turnaround that they want.

The whole discussion on 5G was, "How do we push more and more fiber into the network?" Fiber clearly is driving more of the speed pushing us so that we can kind of move quickly through the network, but then you package that with software-defined networking so that you're pushing the multiaccess edge core. You're going to hear more and more folks talking about this access edge core. Particularly as you hear us and others talk about this intelligent edge network. As you know, [Verizon CEO] Hans Vestberg came over from Ericsson, and he is pushing hard on utilizing fiber, dense fiber, utilizing SDN and driving that toward 5G applications.

Today, we've already rolled out fixed mobile broadband in the home. That's kind of our first broadband play with 5G, kind of the next phase of 5G, but how do you now stand up 5G to handle more mobility applications? Particularly as the industry catches up and we start seeing devices by OEMs being created that can support that type of low latency. Because everybody wants it right now, yesterday, you know, real time. How do we deal with things like autonomous cars, et cetera, so that they can start utilizing these types of applications and drive more compute to the edge and get rid of latency in the network?

That's really what we hear more and more. More bandwidth. Faster, bigger pipes. What are we doing from optical transport standpoint and how do we continue to evolve? I think the industry supports that.

The biggest thing we're finding, though, and I hear it from all the customers is, how do you do more of this on a standards-based platform so that everybody's not building their own proprietary ways to get there. Because the belief is if we get beyond proprietary networks to the point that you can actually scale because you now have OEM and device manufacturers are all building to a level of a standards-based architecture. That's why things like MEF are important, and why we have people sitting on the board here at MEF and being a part of various committees here at MEF. We're really trying to drive that standards conversation so the investments that we're making short-term pay off with a big return for us when we can truly get to scale and the industry kind of starts catching up.

FierceTelecom: So when you mention standards bodies, there are also open source communities like Facebook's TIP and OCP; are you involved with those as well?

Eric Cevis: We look at all of the different forums and try to decide where do we think the biggest take rate is, who's really delivering orchestration into the industry at this stage of the game. We found that MEF and TM Forum have been more the lead partners in this particular space as we sit at those meetings and have people sitting as board members, and hearing from the peer carriers across the globe on what it takes. We're finding those are kind of the standards bodies that have the most take rate at this stage of the game, so we put a lot energy behind them.

RELATED: Verizon's Hicks: One Fiber to rule them all

FierceTelecom: Verizon has launched a Carrier Ethernet service using MEF's LSO Sonata API for the intercarrier orchestration with Colt. Does Verizon have other plans in regards to offering intercarrier orchestration services?

Eric Cevis: So the big question that people are pressuring us on is "OK, now that you got that moving, who's next?" I can tell you there're conversations taking place as we speak with a number of other carriers out in the industry and the marketplace trying to figure out who else is willing to put in the work and the effort. Because what that required was changes on both sides in order to make that interoperability work. So it wasn't just us sticking to what we put forward, or Colt sticking to what they put forward, but allowing each of us to do a little work on there to make sure the interface and protocols would work at the end of the day with those APIs.