ACG Research has released a study showing that virtualizing the functions of mobile Evolved Packet Core (EPC) technology really can save mobile operators bundles of money.
Virtualizing the EPC can save up to 68 percent on capex and 67 percent on opex, says ACG in a study sponsored by VMWare and Affirmed Networks. This is based on comparing bids from traditional EPC vendors, which package their solutions as a collection of hardware and software, with virtualized EPC products that use the network functions virtualization (NFV) approach of putting software functions onto commodity hardware.
ACG’s five-year cost analysis found that mobile network operators (MNO) that moved to an NFV-based platform began saving money in the first year and realized an investment payback in three years.
MNOs were also able to turn up a virtualized network much more quickly (less than 6 months) than with traditional networks (15 months on average).
The savings and advantages for virtualized EPC go beyond the commodity hardware, according to ACG. Some of the other savings that AGC found came in the following forms:
- Dynamic scaling: MNOs using virtual EPCs can add capacity more easily according to traffic demand.
- Geo-Independence: Virtual resources can be moved around the world, on demand.
- Clustering: Virtual EPCs can be concentrated into a single cluster.
- Load balancing: A virtual EPC platform can include a load-balancing function, which in the hardware world was sold as separate function with a separate box.
- Collapsing other functions: By building an virtual EPC, service providers can also include other functions in the platform including Gi-LAN, policy control, WiFi gateways, and routing.
- Orchestration: Virtual EPCs can be set up using software defined networking (SDN) techniques including orchestration and service chaining.
The cost analysis was done by evaluating several scenarios, including a large service provider implementing consumer broadband services for a network scaling from 3 million to 4 million subscribers. In that scenario, ACG compared a virtualized solution with multiple functions versus a traditional EPC solution. A lot of the added cost of the traditional solution came from the requirement to purchase a load balancer and video and web optimization platform in addition to the EPC gateway.
“An NFV architecture yields significant savings (through capex and opex reduction), in large part because of its cost-efficient scalability, which enables MNOs to rapidly recover their initial investment because of the immediate savings produced – put conversely, this is the cash flow (cost) impact of a delaying the move to NFV,” says the ACG study.
In a second scenario, ACG evaluated using EPC for signaling and packet gateway (SGW/PGW/DPI) functionality for M2M traffic. That scenario generated savings through the cost advantages of running functions on x86 servers and through higher asset utilization due to a shorter deployment time. ACG also said operational savings are possible through lower vendor-service contracts.