As Mobile World Congress (MWC) rapidly approaches, 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) are dominating industry conversation. For VMware, the computing virtualization expert, the event offers a key opportunity to highlight an important focus area around supporting these initiatives for communications service providers (CSPs)—along with new types of end-user applications, evolved analytics, and data security. To date, the company already has more than 80 network function virtualization (NFV) production deployments in place across 45 telcos, built to support network transformation for 5G and beyond.
In this interview, Gabriele Di Piazza, vice president of solutions, Telco NFV Group at VMware, shares his predictions for what will be generating the most buzz at Mobile World Congress next week in Barcelona.
SDxCentral: What is VMware’s vision of 5G and IoT?
Gabriele Di Piazza: Virtualization is foundational to 5G and IoT. This provides a great opportunity for VMware as both 5G and IoT are based on highly distributed architectures with hundreds of millions of endpoints at the edge – with a set of cloud and back-end infrastructures that make those endpoints work efficiently to adapt to user consumption and behavior, or machine-to-machine behavior. This includes computing, storage, network, and analytics. Leveraging a network function virtualization architecture, communications service providers (CSPs) have an opportunity to create and launch new 5G and IoT services in a much more agile, flexible, cost effective, and scalable way. We are looking to transform the telco network much like we transformed the IT datacenter market.
Our vision is the 5G networks of the future will deliver high speed, low latency, and highly personalized services, leveraging a new generation software defined cloud infrastructure
What do you expect to the be top themes in this area at the 2017 Mobile World Congress?
I believe we will see IoT, analytics, and machine and artificial intelligence as major themes at this year’s Mobile World Congress. For over 5 years, GSMA had their own stand displaying anything connected (from devices, to cars to bicycles to sporting equipment), and I am expecting to see way more connected services this year. Also, I believe you will see cloud technologies taking center stage in a way that’s not limited to data centers — but rather at the core of services transformation. And with VMware’s cross cloud strategy this puts us right at the center of these major themes.
A big part of 5G is the transformation of the network and enabling service providers to deliver agile, end-to-end services more quickly. What role does VMware play in this transformation?
We are in more than 80 NFV production deployments across 45 telcos already. Our role is to enable transformation that leads to flexible, agile service provisioning and delivery for the next generation of services and endpoints, and we have a very comprehensive horizontal stack in terms of our NFV platform. We are taking our customers on a journey of cross-cloud architecture. We’re helping them converge their network and IT architecture so that they can move applications and workloads transparently across private and public clouds, including very specific telecom network functions and IoT applications all the way to cloud native applications. We also enable transparent automation and can apply policy across multiple clouds. This concept also is at the core of 5G and mobile network transformation, and we’re excited for the industry conversation around this at Mobile World Congress.
NFV is still in its infancy and many service providers are still trying to figure out NFV. How is VMware helping service providers make this transition?
We are removing the most common barriers of adoption for CSPs. VMware is at the forefront of software-defined data center architectures, which we combine with the reliability required by telco network domain. To do that, we are bringing together a full NFVi infrastructure with carrier-grade features and a specific architecture built to deploy multiple applications and virtual network functions (VNFs). We are the leader in virtualization, and are extending that into telecom NFV specifically.
The result is a single, comprehensive platform that can enable multiple functions and scenarios as needed, including the virtualized and software-orchestrated mobile core (control plane and data plane) and support for cloud applications at the new virtualized edge, such as software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), video and media distribution, and the 5G mobile radio access network (RAN) and IoT. We take a comprehensive view of how to deploy NFV at scale and innovate through launch of new services.
How can VMware’s Digital Workspace vision help drive more incremental revenue for carriers?
Our strategy is to enable CSPs to offer comprehensive, unified endpoint management and digital workspace applications for better mobile user productivity. An example is offering access to corporate clouds, email, and other services with the same experience, across multiple devices. With VMware’s digital workspace, telcos can provide this as a service, which could lead to increased revenues from data usage, and increase their resale and channel opportunities.
We also have an end-user computing group working with many carriers, and the strategic intent is to learn how to help them expand revenue, how we can become a more strategic partner, how we can provide security across their endpoints and over their carrier connections, and enable better user productivity.
The Internet of Things certainly is a high priority for many enterprises, yet many are concerned about security. What is VMware doing to minimize security threats and support customers across the entire IoT ecosystem?
Security is a major initiative for VMware, and we did not build it on a product-by-product basis. Rather, this is a horizontal foundation for everything that we do — from the data center infrastructure to the endpoints, and everything in-between. To maximize the opportunities in IoT for CSPs, we can deploy, manage, and monitor their security infrastructure. We support them across all of the things, sensors, edge appliances, apps, and human users that connect to their network, with secure enterprise operational management. It’s baked across each of our offerings, from app delivery to endpoint management, and they all connect with each other across the service delivery chain. It’s not one data security product placed here or there.
How is VMware, a traditionally enterprise-focused company, doing in the CSP market? Any recent highlights that you want to share with our readers? And any sneak previews you want to hint at that we should all be watching for at MWC?
This is a major area for us, backed by top-level management and a fast-growing telco team. It’s not just a tactical initiative. Telcos are key partners in taking products to market — as I mentioned, we’re in more than 80 NFV deployments at 45 carriers.
Also, as part of our commitment to openness and interoperability, we have created a certification program and have 30 VNFs certified as ready for NFV — CSPs can consider it as as a marketplace where they can confidently pick and choose what VNFs they want to deploy and what best fits with their strategy.
We’re really excited for MWC this year. As we continue to build momentum in the CSP market, I think this will be our biggest MWC yet with multiple happenings at the show including our CEO, Pat Gelsinger presenting a keynote with our partner Atos on the first major showcase for 5G capabilities: The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. We will also be showcasing a set of very sophisticated demos for wireless, wireline, and IoT use cases, hosting a hackathon around TOSCA based description and onboarding with our partners Intel and Cloudify, along with over 20 VNFs partners.
We will also issue a major announcement around our next generation NFV platform, but this is something for next week.