The company’s Wednesday morning announcement cites progress in three areas:
Internet Multimedia Subsystem (IMS)
This technology is software running on x86 gear to begin with, so it’s an obvious target for NFV. “There’s a strong appetite to move it to a virtualized environment,” says Manish Gulyani, AlcaLu’s vice president of product marketing.
The CloudNFV initiative is trying to do this as well, in a way that’s supported by multiple vendors and with the added philosophy that NFV should be an inherently cloud-based concept. But that’s based on open-source software. AlcaLu, already “pretty high in terms of market share” in IMS, prefers to use its own software, Gulyani says. “Our view is that we have a much fuller representation than you have in open-source.” (We’re guessing the open-source guys don’t see it that way.)
AlcaLu has three contracts to infuse virtualized IMS into large voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) networks. It’s also involved in eight cloud-centric IMS trials with customers, Gulyani says.
Evolved Packet Core (EPC)
This is a popular NFV example that’s probably going to be demonstrated all over MWC.
Carriers consider EPC a good area for trying out NFV, Gulyani says. While some carriers like Deutsche Telekom are NFV obsessives, others want to try virtualizing one thing at a time to see how the performance and reliability look.
“If you talk to the operations guys, they’re scared” about how well NFV will work, Gulyani says. “If you talk to the CTOs, they’re all-in.”
AlcaLu divided the EPC software into chunks that do and don’t make sense for cloud deployment, because the company expects only the cloud-friendly chunks to become virtualized under NFV. “Maybe for IMS we can move most parts to the cloud, but for EPC, we will not,” Gulyani says.
Radio Access Network (RAN)
The radios themselves can’t be virtualized, but you could virtualize the baseband processing that takes place in a mobile carrier’s radio network. The 3G network does this already, but LTE doesn’t. The baseband processing involves a lot of digital signal processing that’s typically done with an ASIC; NFV aims move that onto off-the-shelf hardware.
AlcaLu’s dabblings in this area have become the subject of an ETSI-approved proof-of-concept (PoC) demonstration that will be on display in China Mobile‘s MWC booth. The demo is an LTE network that uses AlcaLu’s RAN products exclusively, a few EPCs including AlcaLu’s, and CloudBand for orchestration.
Don’t expect RAN virtualization to take off quickly, though, Gulyani says.
“There’s a desire to move that to an Intel-based platform, but it’s a big step to take the Intel-based processing there. That’s why, in my mind, it’s very early,” he says. Virtualizing even part of the RAN might have to wait for the deployment of LTE-Advanced, he says.
AlcaLu is also announcing that it’s shipping CloudBand 2.0, a platform that was announced about two years ago. CloudBand is AlcaLu’s vehicle for virtualization; it’s a racked set of off-the-shelf servers and storage managed by CloudStack. Version 2.0 adds OpenStack support and also integrates CloudBand with the Virtual Services Platform (VSP) from Nuage Networks, AlcaLu’s SDN spin-in. The VSP portion lets operators automate the network connectivity for some applications.
CloudBand now has three customers under contract and 10 more in trials, Gulyani says.