BARCELONA — Mobile World Congress (MWC) — Yes, 2015 will be a big year for Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) technology. Large global service providers are beginning to deploy revenue-driving enterprise services in the cloud using open technologies such as Software Defined Networking (SDN) and NFV, as demonstrated by all the activity here at the Mobile World Congress show.
One of the largest-profile announcements was Deutsche Telekom (DT) launching a Cloud VPN (Virtual Private Network) service for small and midsized businesses, using Cisco technologies. The virtualized managed service is the first commercial service from DT’s new pan-European IP network, which it calls Terastream, and the VPN service is available now to customers in DT’s subsidiaries in Croatia, Hungary, and Slovakia.
Cisco says DT used the Tail-f NCS platform, and the technology is based on Netconf/YANG Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) standards. The service is built on Cisco virtual security appliances, combined with DT’s OpenStack solutions.
This high-profile VPN launch highlights a big trend. The idea is that enterprises will be able to more quickly adopt new data services in the cloud by provisioning the services themselves on the Web and without installing specialized equipment. The concept appears to be gaining momentum, as all sorts of service providers and technology vendors had their NFV demo game on in Barcelona.
Overture Networks was demonstrating NFV in cooperation with Brocade (Nasdaq: BRCD), Metaswitch Networks, Spirent, and Intel (Nasdaq: INTC). This network demo included enterprise cloud applications such as virtual routing, virtual IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), VPN, and virtual Customer Premises Equipment (vCPE), among others.
What does all this mean? It means that all of these vendors can now provide their networking services on a standard server box, rather than needing specialized hardware, enabling service providers to roll out cloud services quickly and more cheaply.
“It’s not just about replacing the box; it’s all the things you can do once you replace it, making NFV real,” said Prayson Pate, Overture’s CTO. “Tier 2 service providers see an opportunity to provide competitive differentiation [by deploying cloud services].”
The halls of MWC were bustling with OpenStack orchestration demos and launches. As one person said to me, “apparently now everybody does NFV orchestration.”
HP (NYSE: HPQ) had another one of the high-profile deals, an announcement that HP will be the technology provider and systems integrator for Unica, Telefónica’s virtualization strategy. It uses HP’s OpenNFV platform.
It was hard to throw an espresso cup without hitting a “carrier-grade NFV” demo at the show. Here were some more:
- Cyan demo’d “deterministic NFV” for service providers in a partnerhip with Intel, Red Hat (Nasdaq: RHAT), Dell, and Connectem. This demo was targeted at an Evolved Packet Core (EPC) demo for mobile backhaul networks. This enables EPC, a key technology for scaling mobile data networks, to run as software on standard COTS server hardware. There’s a great summary in this Cyan blog.
- Oracle announced 10G/40G Ethernet switches targeted at NFV in service-provider networks. It also announced enhancements to the Oracle SDN platform to deliver up to 80 Gbit/s server-to-server bandwidth in NFV deployments.
- Ericsson wins my award for the most hype and least substance in cloud and NFV. Prior to MWC, it send out a barrage of “announcements.” At the show Ericsson announced Hypersale Cloud Solution, a cloud computing platform based on the Intel RackScale architecture. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi film, but I found the press release vague and hard to understand. In another vague announcement, Ericsson talked about cooperation with Telefónica but did not detail specific deals or services. Ericsson was also touting the Virtualized Services Router (VSR), but given that Alcatel-Lucent and Juniper launched virtual routers last year — and Brocade has had one for years — this effort just makes Ericsson look a bit late to the virtual router game.
- NTT Docomo announced it would be cooperating with Ericsson, Fujitsu, and NEC to develop commercial NFV deployments on Docomo’s mobile network in Japan — but the target date in that press release is 2016, so it’s not live and real yet.
The overall impression I’ve been left with is that NFV is the new ground-zero for technology battles for the service provider business. The competitive differentiation for service providers and technology vendors alike will be about who can quickly provide the technology to launch new scaleable NFV services in the cloud — including Ethernet, optical, and security.