The cloud-based pieces of Nokia Networks’ voice over LTE (VoLTE) service are nearing real-world usage, as the company is announcing today that a major operator will be using the technology in a live service by the end of the year.
Nokia Networks — which was formerly equipment vendor Nokia Siemens Networks and now comprises the bulk of Nokia — has been developing cloud-based versions of mobile network functions such as the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) infrastructure. The idea is to use network functions virtualization (NFV) to build cloud-based services that could be used by carriers.
Such services would theoretically be able to scale up and down easily — which is one of the usual “cloud” arguments, but it resonates with telcos, because adding capacity to a service is an otherwise expensive task. By using the cloud and NFV to deliver an emerging service such as VoLTE, an operator wouldn’t have to commit early to the technology but could theoretically ramp up quickly if some hot smartphone starts offering the service.
Metaswitch is another company that’s followed this logic, but it went a step further by not only moving its IMS to the cloud, but also offering it in open source form. (That code was eventually taken up by the CloudNFV project as an example of melding NFV and the cloud.)
Separately, Nokia is announcing its Cloud Network Director, which is meant to manage the overall cloud, including Nokia’s NFV infrastructure but also other vendors’ cloud software. Nokia developed that orchestration system on its own, given an immature market and lack of standards.
“There is no really solid solution out in the market to do this. You have startups working on orchestration, and you have big vendors working on orchestration for their own stuff,” says Sandro Tavares, Nokia’s head of marketing for the mobile core. “We don’t see a product in the market that would perform these functions in a way that we believe they have to be performed.”
More Liquid Applications
Even more separately (but kind of related), Nokia Networks is also announcing a few new candidates for Liquid Applications, its name for the use of integrated blade servers to deliver applications inside cellular base stations.
Liquid Applications was launched at Mobile World Congress in February 2013, but with limited applications — video caching, basically. But Nokia Networks wants Liquid Applications to become more of a hosting platform, which of course implies the blades can do more than one thing. So, the company is announcing three more pre-loaded, pre-configured applications: video orchestration, real-time analytics (useful for optimizing video content on the fly), and augmented-reality processing.