When you think of Oracle, you usually think of database software for back office systems such as payroll, order management, and billing. And more recently the company has been carving a niche for itself as a cloud provider.
But Oracle also has a division that does network signaling for mobile devices to talk to each other. And that division uses network virtualization. It’s earned the business of carriers such as T-Mobile and Verizon, and it competes with the likes of Nokia and Ericsson.
Oracle got its start in network virtualization about four years ago when it acquired Acme Packet and Tekelec, giving it products in the signaling space. “That became the foundation,” said Chris King, senior director of service provider products at Oracle. “We have a reasonably complete IMS stack.”
King said Oracle serves about three-quarters of the traditional wireless network operators.
“Over the last few years, we’ve been busy coming out with virtualized versions of our network functions,” said King. The company offers network service orchestration, a session border controller, and a converged application server, among other services.
“These things are all commercial-grade products in production today in their virtualized form,” said King. “But a lot of this is building on things that were done before. When I look at the actual implementations, they are taking a lot of goodness from NFV, but they’re not necessarily purist NFV implementations.”
NFV with TM Forum
Oracle is working with the TM Forum to automate the process of procuring and on-boarding virtual network functions (VNFs).
“We’re hearing from service providers that they’re confused about all the different open source initiatives, many of which are overlapping,” said King. “They’re looking for some clarity.”
Oracle has been working with the TM Forum for about 18 months on a Catalyst project entitled “Enabling the Digital Marketplaces.”
It is aimed at automating the entire lifecycle of a VNF from procurement and on-boarding to testing, validation, deployment, configuration, and assurance.
In addition to Oracle, other participants of this Catalyst project include Amdocs, Huawei, and IBM. And the service providers AT&T, China Mobile, Orange, and Verizon are championing the project.
King said that ultimately, the process is designed to fit into the ETSI NFV management and network orchestration (MANO) architecture. “The intent is to create something that can plug into a number of different MANO implementations to avoid vendor lock-in,” he said.
In terms of why the company is working with the TM Forum and with other vendors — some of whom it competes with, King said, “We’re finding that working with the CSP [communications service provider] tends to be the place where we make the most progress — where you have a large telco saying ‘I need your components to work with that vendor’s products.’”