What sets apart "carrier grade" network functions virtualization from enterprise-grade NFV? Embedded software specialist Wind River Systems contends that it knows, and the company is taking a stackable approach to its carrier-grade platform for NFV, which will be ready for testing by OEMs in the coming weeks.
Wind River was part of BT's network evolution research, which predated and, in turn, helped lead to creation of ETSI's NFV industry specification group (ISG) in January 2013.
"That got us in on the ground floor of NFV. We've been designing our product portfolio to start addressing that market for the last couple of years," said Glenn Seiler, vice president of networking solutions at Wind River.
Wind River has been busily hiring engineers with telco backgrounds to fulfill its mission of developing "a virtualized telco platform," said Seiler, who spoke to FierceWirelessTech during the recent Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, Spain. "That's not the approach enterprise vendors take when they're designing systems," he added.
Those "enterprise vendors" include the likes of VMWare and enterprise Linux providers such as Red Hat, whose virtualization efforts Seiler applauds, though he contends they are not up to carrier standards.
During MWC, Wind River unveiled what it terms the first "commercial, carrier-grade platform for NFV." The modular stack is based upon Wind River Linux, open virtualization, kernel-based virtual machine (KVM), carrier-grade enhancements to OpenStack software and Intel data plane development kit (DPDK) accelerated vSwitch technologies.
"This is a whole, integrated, out-of-the-box server platform," Seiler said. "This is intended to be an NFV host that serves and manages virtual machines," he added.
The Wind River server is optimized for HP ProLiant servers and Intel Xeon processors for communications infrastructure systems. Wind River, an Intel subsidiary, is also working with HP to certify Wind River communications software on network equipment building system (NEBS)-compliant HP ProLiant servers.
Seiler said Wind River will start putting its carrier-grade software into customer locations for trials in just a few weeks. Those customers are OEMs rather than operators, and Seiler said they are working on numerous NFV designs, particularly evolved packet cores. "EPCs seem to be one of the biggest use cases for NFV," he added.
Seiler argues that Wind River's platform is unique because it is commercial, fully integrated and delivered by a single vendor that can provide 24x7 support. "It's not a proof of concept that six different vendors collaborated to put together to show certain functionality," he said.
Wind River's pitch is that its platform meets the critical requirements a carrier-grade NFV server must have. Among those requirements are high reliability and availability, performance and scalability, and security. "We can support baseband-level latencies. Enterprise systems are not made for that," Seiler argued.
He said carrier-grade software platforms also need different management capabilities than those found in enterprise server software. Among other things, carrier-grade servers must interface with a service provider's OSS/BSS and element management systems in order to provision and configure services, and "those don't exist in the enterprise," Seiler said.
Last month, Wind River became a corporate sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation, which supports OpenStack, the open-source cloud-computing platform that allows the management of large pools of compute, storage and networking resources in cloud environments.
Wind River's strategy around OpenStack is to be "a commercial OpenStack supplier," Seiler said. He noted OpenStack as it exists is basically enterprise software, so Wind River has "had to 'carrier-gradeize' OpenStack to adapt it to a carrier environment."
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