While all eyes, at least in the U.S. and China, have seemed focused on the ONAP group for NFV management and network orchestration (MANO), SK Telecom was apparently busy developing its own MANO platform. The South Korean operator today announced its T-MANO.
The operator created T-MANO because it was tired of having to build and operate separate NFV management systems to make its equipment and software from different vendors all work harmoniously together. SK Telecom, in today’s announcement, said the problems stemmed from the fact that all this different equipment was built using different specifications.
SK Telecom based T-MANO on the specifications set by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute Industry Specification Group (ETSI ISG NFV). But it customized T-MANO for its own network environment to perform integrated management and orchestration of virtualized network functions (VNFs).
ETSI can be credited with kicking off NFV MANO work with its framework issued in 2014. Since then, several open source MANO groups have sprung up. There’s even one hosted by ETSI – the Open Source MANO (OSM) group. OSM released the second version of its code in April.
SDxCentral has asked SK Telecom whether it worked with OSM to create T-MANO. [After this story was published, we heard from SK Telecom that it did not work with OSM. “SK Telecom self-developed it,” wrote a spokesperson in an email. Please see their other comments at the end of the story ].**
It did say in its announcement that it plans to make the T-MANO application programming interfaces (APIs) openly available. SK Telecom is listed as a participant in OSM.
Besides OSM, the other big MANO open source group is the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). Its members include AT&T, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom.
SK Telecom’s NFV
SK Telecom plans to first apply T-MANO to its virtual routers for high-definition voice services. It will then apply T-MANO to virtualized LTE Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and additional equipment, including multimedia messaging service (MMS) servers.
The operator said it is already deploying virtual EPC in 80 percent of new EPC deployments. Beginning in 2019, it will deploy only virtual EPC in its network.
SK Telecom is virtualizing and automating its network as part of a race to deploy 5G in time for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Seoul. Apparently, it’s making good progress. Juniper Research recently ranked the carrier number one among operators in terms of 5G readiness. SK Telecom was followed by NTT DoCoMo, KT, China Mobile, and AT&T.
**Update after story originally published.
SK Telecom said in an email that about 30 engineers at the company worked on T-MANO.
It also elaborated on another internal effort known as T-OVEN, which manages end-to-end virtualized networks, from vRAN to vEPC to vIMS. The company commercialized its carrier-grade NFV orchestrator T-OVEN in August 2015.
“Based on NFV Director of Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), T-OVEN is a carrier grade NFV orchestrator that is optimized for the telco environment, which generally requires high performance and stability,” wrote the SK Telecom spokesperson.
In 2016, the company applied an upgraded T-OVEN – which is designed to interwork with multi-vendor equipment and capable of designing, deploying, and operating virtual network functions (VNFs) – to three central data centers, covering around 10 million LTE-A subscribers.