Google is partnering with mobile operators to share its networking expertise and build a platform for carriers to run their network services. Details on this platform are vague, but for vendors like Cisco, Ericsson, Nokia, Juniper Networks and others, Google’s latest move may set off alarm bells.
Google Principal Engineer Ankur Jain explained Google’s plans in a blog post noting that the company has built a backbone network to link its servers to its data centers and its edge nodes. And that it has relied upon software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV) and site reliability engineering to help deliver its services.
“Our SDN framework enables networks to adapt to new services and traffic patterns,” Jain said in the post. “Fast user space packet processing on commodity hardware increases the ability to deliver new features quickly while reducing costs.”
Now the company says it is going to work with mobile operators (SK Telecom and Bharti Airtel will be the first), to build some sort of platform that will incorporate the work the company has done on application program interfaces (APIs) to provide better network performance.
For example, Google has been working with some of its mobile partners to come up with a way to identify the user’s data plan limits while still protecting their identity. Called Carrier Plan Identifier (CPID), Google can request information from a user’s data plan from the mobile network operator. The API then encodes that data plan information so that users get better performance on their applications. This functionality could also enable new operational models for carriers.
Alex Choi, CTO of SK Telecom said in the post that his company hopes by working with Google, it can accelerate the transition to 5G and enable new use cases such as machine learning to optimize network operations.
Jain also reiterated that Google is working with the Central Office Re-Architected as a Data Center (CORD) open source project. CORD combines NFV and SDN to bring data center economics and cloud agility to the telco central office. Analyst firm IHS recently did a survey that found that 70 percent of operators planned to deploy CORD in their central offices.
Vendors on Alert
Google’s main incentive for partnering with operators is to make networks perform better so that users have better performance for their Google applications like Google Maps, YouTube, and Gmail.
But this latest announcement suggests an even closer alliance. According to The Street’s Real Money, the more operators align with Google’s networking strategy, which is to rely more on commodity hardware and less on proprietary data center switches and carrier networking appliances, the more difficult it will be for network equipment suppliers that are already feeling pressure.