Ericsson is kicking off Mobile World Congress season with a spattering of announcements Wednesday morning about mobile networks, including a few that touch on the vendor’s activities in software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV).
Ericsson is making eight announcements and (this is pure speculation) might have even more to launch on or around Feb. 24, when the show actually starts.
One of the simpler yet more intriguing announcements is that Ericsson’s virtual evolved packet core (EPC) has become a real product.
Last year’s show saw one vendor after another declare the EPC, a combination of technologies that form the core of an LTE network, as being a ripe use case for NFV. Companies including Ericsson and Intel were demonstrating EPCs executed as virtual machines running on x86 processors.
Now, Ericsson is offering the entire EPC — an Evolved Packet Gateway, an SGSN-MME, a Service-Aware Policy Controller and a Service Aware Support Node — as a virtualized product.
Ericsson probably won’t be the only one, either. For example, there’s the EPC proof-of-concept that’s been approved by the ETSI NFV group, a joint proposal of Intel, Red Hat, Cyan, and Connectem that has Telefónica as a carrier sponsor. (UPDATE: Sprint, too; see comments below.) It’s going to be the subject of an MWC demo, too, as Cyan CEO Mark Floyd confirmed on his company’s earnings call Tuesday.
Last year, NFV backers picked the EPC as an NFV example because it was clearly possible to do and was fair game as an MWC subject. (Don’t forget, NFV was less than six months old the last time this conference came around.) The concept has caught on quickly with customers since then, says Jan Häglund, Ericsson’s head of IP and broadband.
“During the year, requests on virtualization have increased from a lot of our customers, and you could say that the timeline for virtualizing has been getting shorter from a year ago,” Häglund says.
Among Ericsson’s other announcements Wednesday, two stand out for their implications in cloud and SDN deployments.
Transforming Clouds and Services
Telecom Cloud Transformation is a service whereby Ericsson’s systems integration team will help a service provider create and implement cloud services. It’s meant to counter over-the-top cloud services by outsourcing the whole service to Ericsson, from the initial planning out to implementation and maintenance.
Service Agility is a step toward consolidating the OSS and BSS offerings Ericsson has picked up through acquisitions, especially of Telcordia in mid-2012 and ConceptWave shortly after. Ericsson is putting all those OSS/BSS items into one product catalog and bundling them into one framework.
That’s probably harder to do than it sounds (note that it took nearly a year and a half). In general, OSS and BSS — the tangle of software packages running any given telco’s back office — were a complex problem even before SDN came around. There’s a lot more work to do on this front, as Ericsson realizes.