SmartSky is deploying Brocade’s virtual evolved packet core (vEPC), running on VMware’s vCloud NFV to implement the new network, connecting more than 250 macro-cell sites across the continental United States.
Brocade’s vEPC was precertified for compatibility with VMware’s network functions virtualization (NFV) infrastructure.
SmartSky is working with an undisclosed infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) vendor that is handling the necessary data center hardware for the network. The IaaS vendor will also manage the VMware hypervisor.
VMware’s vCloud NFV provides SmartSky with abstraction from the hardware. “As a greenfield we decided to not own data centers,” says David Claassen, VP of network architecture for SmartSky. “We want to avoid hardware to the extent possible. We’re looking at virtualizing the entire network.”
He says not owning and operating data centers makes the business case a lot more appealing.
SmartSky plans to launch in the first half of 2017 with three main ground locations — one national data center on each coast, hosting the vEPCs, and a regional serving gateway, probably in Colorado.
Over the course of 2017, SmartSky will deploy another two regional serving gateways with a goal to ultimately have the two national data centers and six regional serving gateways.
“VMware allows me to abstract completely from hardware,” Claassen says. “I’m able to deploy the exact same software for the national serving gateways and regional gateways, being able to leverage the same software over and over again. It’s like having your entire network on a CD. You just download it.”
SmartSky will lease existing towers and circuits for the network’s physical backhaul and radios at the edge.
SmartSky will initially focus on providing wireless for private aircraft and then move into the commercial space.