We’ve detailed how last year’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) was a launch point for emerging network functions virtualization (NFV) technology. This year’s MWC showed the story is evolving as NFV is reaching real-world deployment.
The main carps about NFV have been that it’s mostly in the labs of service providers, that the technology is the subject of esoteric standards debates, and that real production deployments are far away. This year’s MWC has proven these concerns exaggerated.
Real-world, production virtual network functions (VNFs) are starting to be deployed by global service providers. Certain NFV applications such as virtual evolved packet core (vEPC) and software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) are gaining business traction, and they will be the leading edge of NFV. Others will follow.
Let me give you some examples of the evidence I saw this week:
- Ericsson was super busy, inking deals with Telefónica, Telstra, and Swisscom, among many others, for NFV deployments. Ericsson’s Cloud Manager and HDS 8000 hyperscale infrastructure platform figure prominently into many of these. But the most compelling evidence I found is that NFV was used to deploy many new mobile applications, such as vEPC. According to Ericsson officials, the company is now involved in more than 50 live production deployments of NFV.
- Cisco announced its new NFV infrastructure (NFVi) platform. The company says that customers including South Africa’s Vodacom are in the integration phase to use Cisco’s platform for virtualized packet core. In addition, Ooredoo, a large operator covering the Middle East, North Africa, and Southeast Asia, said it will use Cisco in a trial for a cloud virtual private network. SD-WAN services, which I’ve said would be one of the early drivers of NFV revenue for carriers, is one of the applications Cisco is targeting.
- VeloCloud and VMware announced that MetTel, a service provider, will deploy their technology for an NFV function to deliver SD-WAN applications including cloud-based VPN.
- Saudi Telecom said it will be using the Mirantis OpenStack distribution to build out NFV for public cloud services. Both companies billed it as the first public cloud service in the Middle East and Africa regions.
- The Linux Foundation, Huawei, China Mobile, and others announced their support of Open-O, an open source orchestration project for NFV, including a $30 million investment from Huawei. Although this doesn’t reflect a direct deployment of NFV, it shows commitment to open source activities in NFV.
- EMC announced an NFVi platform, the EMC Provider Cloud System (PCS). The product is a partnership with Pivotal, VMware, and RSA.
- On February 19, in the run-up to MWC, Hewlett Packard Enterprsie (HPE) announced that Swisscom will deploy VNFs using HPE OpenNFV. In addition, HPE said that Swisscom will use its technology, including: the HPE Virtual Services Router for managing firewall and routing; HPE Service Director for orchestration; and HPE Technology Services for consulting on virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE).
- Although the news wasn’t delivered from MWC itself, Affirmed Networks announced on Monday that Vodafone will be using its vEPC to deliver connected automobile services.
As you can see, there’s plenty of evidence that service providers are serious about rolling out new services on NFV platforms. It’s also clear they are trying a wide variety of vendor platforms — and even mixing them up, delivering on the big NFV promise of interoperability.
Although not all of the NFV news announcements were pinned to production deployments, some deployments are starting to happen, and service providers have made a commitment to using NFV platforms for their next-generation services.
In my visits to many other technology vendors, including Amdocs, Ciena, Netcracker, and Oracle, NFV figured prominently in rollouts of orchestration and OSS technologies. Everybody seems to want a piece of the NFV action. The reason is clear: NFV has now become the platform of choice to deliver virtualized services in the next generation of telecom networks.