Service providers need to innovate to keep up with the competitive pressure of the rapidly changing network environment. As more value and revenue flows to Google and Amazon, service providers face the prospect of increasingly becoming providers of commodity like transport services. At the same time, the huge growth in traffic driven by video, mobile, and cloud usage is overwhelming current networks, forcing service providers to spend heavily in new equipment just to keep up with bandwidth demand.
The answer for service providers is to improve their ability to introduce new revenue-generating services, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce their costs. A key part of this telecom transformation is for service providers to modify their traditional network architectures significantly to improve agility and reduce operating costs.
With the success of virtualization and cloud computing in the enterprise realm, telecom network operators and service providers are now looking to the cloud to reap the same benefits— economics of scale, cost effectiveness and scalability. However, the telecom cloud is not the same as the IT cloud; the telecom industry’s demanding requirements for high levels of availability and reliability must be met. In addition, telecom operators want to leverage the significant investment they’ve already made in their existing infrastructure.
"A key part of telecom transformation is for service providers to modify their traditional network architectures significantly to improve agility"
Typically, telecom software runs on dedicated computer appliances or virtual machines. Launching new network services becomes increasingly difficult as service providers must manage a variety of proprietary pieces of hardware—in addition to the complexity of integrating and deploying these physical devices in a network. To address these challenges, service providers are driving a transformation concept called Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), which moves network functionality to software and leverages commercially available commodity server hardware from the IT sector and teams it with virtualization technology.
Easily Expand Network Reach
Software-Defined Networking (SDN) provides a powerful complement to NFV’s ability to maximize utilization of hardware resources. SDN abstraction allows a service provider to expand the bandwidth capacity and geographic reach of the network, flexibly and easily, across a multi-vendor network of devices, from a centralized management center. Subscribers will benefit by gaining a better experience as a result of rapid network adaptation to demand and the introduction of new services which previously might not have provided sufficient return to justify the investment.
Using open, standard technologies allows telecom operators to virtualize their proprietary solutions on a standard hardware stack. This reduces their time to market because they no longer have to procure individual pieces of hardware for each function in the network. They can just build a rack full of cloud devices and then load the software onto the virtual environment, substantially reducing the amount of cabling required and leveraging the lower-cost and developer-friendly efficiencies inherent in off-the-shelf equipment.
Benefits of NFV
NFV virtualizes network services via software to enable service providers to:
• Reduce CapEx: reducing the need to purchase purpose-built hardware and supporting pay-as-you-grow models to eliminate wasteful over provisioning.
• Reduce OpEX: reducing space, power and cooling requirements of equipment and simplifying the roll out and management of network services.
• Accelerate Time-to-Market: reducing the time to deploy new networking services to support changing business requirements, seize new market opportunities and improve return on investment of new services. Also lowers the risks associated with rolling out new services, allowing providers to easily trial and evolve services to determine what best meets the needs of customers.
• Deliver Agility and Flexibility: quickly scale up or down services to address changing demands; support innovation by enabling services to be delivered via software on any industry standard server hardware.
Defining the Cloud Framework
The best possible solution needed for the telecom infrastructure is a carrier-grade virtualization and cloud infrastructure. Some major networking vendors are already offering server platforms and cloud computing solutions for it. Major telecom carriers are also working closely with an NFV committee formed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ESTI). This group is tasked with defining the requirements and architecture for the virtualization of various network functions.
There is growing interest on setting standards to enable the future of NFV. The OpenDaylight Project is another community-led and industrysupported open source framework founded by the Linux Foundation to foster new innovation and to create an open approach to SDN and NFV. Major networking vendors have already put their weight behind OpenDaylight, offering new products and solutions to support it, benefiting the telecom industry.
Another group, the Cloud NFV initiative, which Dell is a founding member and chairperson of, is a group of vendors dedicated to creating a technical framework and demonstration platform for NFV-based or cloud computing and SDN technologies in a multi-vendor environment that drives advancement for NFV technologies. This group is seeing major trends and discussions emerge within NFV Service, providers want to know how to best implement NFV and vendors are creating new products and services to make it easy to implement. There is a lot of potential for new, cutting-edge innovations within this industry. Networking vendors are working closely with different OEMs and customers to develop, implement and successfully bring these new solutions to market. The next step for NFV to reach its full potential would be the emergence of an independent software community to drive innovation in telecom software.