Brocade makes pitch for telco NFV business

Telcos, including mobile operators, are increasingly interested in using Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) in order to save money as well as gain service flexibility and time-to-market advantages. Brocade is hoping that interest leads service providers to its Vyatta 5600 vRouter, which the company claims is the first virtual router designed for telco-class networks.

Kelly Herrell, Brocade

Herrell (Image source: Brocade)

The new router complements the Brocade Vyatta 5400 vRouter product family, which was designed for cloud service providers and is currently deployed by companies such as Amazon, Rackspace and SoftLayer.

Cloud service providers have been on the virtualization path for at least two years because they aimed to deliver serves at an "absolute utility price" to enterprises, said Kelly Herrell, Brocade vice president and general manager, software networking business.

Wired and wireless network operators saw advances made in the cloud service arena, prompting them to author the initial paper on NFV one year ago, which Herrell described as "the shot heard round the world" by vendors because the paper was issued by 13 of the world's top telcos.

Herrell explained the distinction between software-defined networking (SDN) and NFV. "SDN is about new approaches to manipulate the network infrastructure, and NFV is a new type of network infrastructure that can be manipulated," he said.

NFV is the simpler of the two concepts and reflects telcos' desire to leverage low-cost, high-power, off-the-shelf servers rather than traditional, proprietary, blackbox hardware. The aim is to run software on those servers that allows them to do what their proprietary black box infrastructure previously did.

The telcos that authored the NFV paper put the onus on vendors to supply it. "They know the servers actually do have the networking horsepower to pull this off now. Over the past four years our performance on an Intel server has improved 1000x," Herrell said.

According to Brocade, the latest network-centric Intel x86 servers deliver robust packet processing capabilities and are increasingly populated with 10 GbE Network Interface Cards (NICs) to accommodate data traffic growth. The Brocade Vyatta 5600 is designed to harness this networking power by leveraging software instead of deploying traditional purpose-built hardware.

In proof-of-concept tests with large carriers, Brocade has seen a capex savings potential of 90 percent or more when replacing purpose-built hardware with a high-performance x86 server and the Brocade Vyatta vRouter, Herrell said.  

The need for reduced hardware costs is one part of the NFV equation but so is the need for agility. "You need to be able to bring services to market faster. You need to be able to change those services much faster, be much more responsive in a hypercompetitive environment," Herrell said.

A dozen service providers that responded to a recent survey from Doyle Research reported they already have SDN and/or NFV in their labs as proof of concepts and many have or soon will roll out SDN/NFV in production deployments, with most starting in during 2014.

In a column for Service Provider IT Report, Lee Doyle, principal analyst at Doyle Research, said service providers want to use virtualization to achieve "better cloud/network efficiency, the ability to balance traffic demands, improved network management, and the ability to introduce services faster." Interestingly, the majority of survey respondents did not expect near-term capex benefits but were instead focused on reducing opex.

For more:
- see this Brocade release
- see this Service Provider IT Report article

Special Report: SDN: Ericsson, Huawei and others consider virtualizing the mobile network

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