Operators are hustling to implement IT-based improvements that will help them reduce network capex and opex, and as a result ABI Research expects spending on virtualization of mobile networks will reach nearly $6 billion by 2018.
Early virtualization work will focus on the services plane, followed later by the control and data planes, said ABI, which noted software-defined networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) will fundamentally change the nature of the telecommunications industry.
Joe Hoffman, ABI's practice director, said changes in business practices enabled by virtualization will enhance both top line and bottom line financial results though more than just cost reductions. "In the long run, operators embracing SDN/NFV will outrun their competitors with a much faster service velocity," said Hoffman.
The research firm said Nokia Solutions and Networks (NYSE:NOK) (formerly known as Nokia Siemens Networks) and Cisco are among vendors best positioned to deliver on NFV. NSN has taken on a leadership role by virtualizing its Liquid Core network with commercial ATCA and HP servers. Cisco's nascent server business is also positioned to exploit the virtualization trend, as its ASR5xxx software should readily port, said ABI.
Peter Jarich, vice president of consumer and infrastructure at Current Analysis (and a FierceWireless contributor) has written that although SDN and NFV are often confused, they actually target different areas related to virtualization.
"At a basic level, SDN is about separating out the network control plane from the data plane, with 'open' interfaces to the data plane supporting service programmability and dynamic service set-up," he said.
NFV, on the other hand, "is about building telecom applications--think IMS, policy, mobile packet core--on industry standard platforms which, thanks to virtualization software, allows for multiple applications to be built on common hardware and the capacity of those applications dynamically created or torn down," Jarich said.
- see this ABI release
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