Spain's Telefonica and Japan's NTT DoCoMo separately announced major, long-term commitments to developing and deploying network functions virtualization (NFV) architecture as they pioneer efforts to develop this quite nascent technology frontier.
In Telefonica's case, it is collaborating with software-defined networking (SDN) specialist Cyan as well as Linux and open-source software provider Red Hat on an NFV initiative.
Cyan is charged with delivering an NFV orchestrator that will employ enhancements developed by Red Hat for the OpenStack open-source protocol. Using the Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform, Cyan's Blue Planet SDN Platform "will orchestrate the deterministic placement of virtual network functions in the server infrastructure" to maximize the performance of virtualized network functions (VNF), Telefonica said.
"We believe that the deterministic allocation of CPU, memory, I/O, and storage relative to a particular type of VNF is critical to delivering the predictable performance needed for telco-grade network functions. This new deterministic architecture transforms a generic cloud computing data center into a telco data center capable of supporting NFV," commented Enrique Algaba, network innovation and virtualization director at Telefonica's I+D-Global CTO unit.
Telefonica, like U.S. telecom carrier AT&T (NYSE: T), is one of a handful of Tier 1 operators striving to set themselves apart as a leaders on the path toward telecom network virtualization. Its Unica project, announced in February at the 2014 Mobile World Congress trade show, aims to virtualize 30 percent of Telefonica's new infrastructure by 2016.
NTT DoCoMo is also moving aggressively within the virtualization arena, announcing plans to virtualize its evolved packet core (EPC) in time to have commercial services running over it by the end of March 2016.
Since November 2013, Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Cisco and NEC have separately been working with the Japanese carrier on proof-of-concept (PoC) trials designed to verify the feasibility of NFV. Seizo Onoe, DoCoMo's CTO, said a high degree of collaboration will be necessary before NFV can successfully "change the ecosystem of network industries."
NFV enables operators to ditch dedicated, proprietary network hardware and replace it with less expensive industry standard "white boxes" while network functions are offloaded onto software that can be managed from anywhere within an operator's network or the cloud. This approach promises to reduce time to market for new network services, slash capex and opex, as well as encourage innovation.
NFV got its official start via an October 2012 white paper authored by 13 leading telecom operators, which called on the entire industry to leverage standard IT virtualization technology to consolidate network equipment onto industry-standard high-volume servers, switches and storage, which could be located in data centers, network nodes and the end-user premises.
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