EMC Dips a Toe Into the NFV Business

EMC is getting into the business of helping service providers transform their networks via network functions virtualization (NFV), and one of its first moves is to align with Affirmed Networks to offer a virtual probe and analytics for mobile networks.

In March 2015, EMC announced the formation of the new Network NFV Group. Within the next several weeks, EMC will begin rolling out its initial NFV platform for telcos.

“It’s pretty much an architecture that is in line with what ETSI has been blueprinting the last few years,” says Anton Prenneis, who leads marketing for EMC’s Telecom Transformation group. “It’s about our software stack on top of a heterogeneous hardware structure. We support both VMware as well as OpenStack. Our fit is as an infrastructure provider.”

EMC plans to partner with vendors to deliver its NFV platform, and the first partnership is with Affirmed Networks. Affirmed will bring its virtual probe, and EMC will offer the associated analytics to provide mobile operators with visibility into their virtualized networks.

“The operator gets to pick whether it’s a joint offering or other vendors get brought in,” says Angela Whiteford, Affirmed’s VP of marketing.

Affirmed touts the native and co-location aspects of its probe, which is a virtual network function (VNF) that sits next to the evolved packet core (EPC). The virtual probe eliminates the need for separate appliances for probe and packet-brokering functions.

“The probe gets data in the most efficient way possible, because the data is already correlated within the EPC,” says Whiteford.

EMC’s analytics are built largely on technology from Pivotal, one of EMC’s federation companies.

“The components are Pivotal, but the platform is EMC,” says Prenneis.

Whiteford says with many probes, whether hardware or virtual, the carrier does not own the data and must pay the vendor to get specific reports. The probe and analytics offering from Affirmed and EMC includes the data. The customer can request it to be presented in any way it wants.

“The mobile data traffic is changing, and they don’t even know what use case they’re going to want to look at next,” she says.