On February 16, 2016, Brocade made two strategically important announcements that outlined the overall mobile network strategy and additions to the open mobile networking ecosystem. As mentioned in my prior blog on Mobile World Congress, the mobile industry is about to go through a mega transition, from 3G/4G networks to 5G. However, unlike both 3G and 4G, the evolution to 5G does not represent just another increase in speeds. Instead, 5G represents an entirely new way for mobile operators to operate their business and open up a world of opportunities for new services including Internet of Things (IoT), Machine-to-Machine (M2M) and cloud services.
5G promises to deliver an infrastructure that is more CapEx- and OpEx-friendly—one that provides flexibility, with the ability to leverage automation and intelligence to support new business models and capitalize on changing customer requirements. 5G lays the foundation for innovation, creating an infrastructure that can scale to support all the demands being placed on it, at an order of magnitude that is greater than anything ever seen before. The 5G network needs to be able to support:
- Mobile data volumes that are 1000 times greater than today
- A thousand times greater number of devices connecting than today
- Peak data rates that are 100 times greater than today
- Service deployments that take 1/1000 the time they currently take
- One-tenth the power consumption of current networks
- 999 percent reliability, with one-fifth the latency of current networks
These are lofty goals compared to the state of mobile networks today. It will require mobile networks to be re-defined from today’s proprietary-based, hardware-centric and manual network to a pervasive mobile network infrastructure that is software-enabled, virtualized, modular, scalable and built on open standards. This is exactly Brocade’s mobile networking strategy, to enable mobile operators to:
- Reduce the cost and time of service innovation – lower the time and resources necessary to implement a new or change a service. To better compete, mobile operators need to reduce service implementation times from months to days or weeks. This will enable new service opportunities.
- Scale up and down mobile resources to meet workload requirements and demands – this requires a virtualized network infrastructure that is more than simply porting software from physical devices and making them virtual. This require new software built from the ground up to take advantage of compute resources to ensure you get the scale required through software efficiency. Not one of Brocade’s virtual network functions (VNFs) have resided in physical devices.
- Personalize network services to give every user their own network – enabled by software efficiency, the ability to give a enterprise or similar groups of users their own mobile network is crucial as we move to new business models including IoT and M2M. Only a scalable network infrastructure enables the types of personalization required in a 5G world.
From a technology perspective, 5G Public Private Partnership (5GPPP) has identify four key technology principles for 5G networks: Software Defined Networking (SDN), Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), Mobile Edge Computing (MEC) and Big Data / Machine Learning.
With the recent announcements, Brocade now has significant and viable solutions in these areas that mobile operators can start to implement today and start their path to 5G.
- SDN – the Brocade SDN Controller is a open architecture controller that enables programmable network control and streamlines operations, simplifies service provisioning and increases overall network flexibility.
- NFV – the Brocade solution includes the Virtual Core for Mobile (VCM) that includes a fully virtualized Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) with a portable user plan that allows distribution of data to the edge of the network while maintaining control of each session centrally. In addition, the proven Brocade vRouter provides a quick way to scale the mobile network without the limitations of a physical router. In addition, the Brocade virtual packet broker provides real-time network programmability that replicates network traffic from virtual mobile packet cores, and intelligently forwards flows to monitoring and analytics tools.
- Mobile Edge Computing – the Brocade mobile edge infrastructure capabilities, based on and powered by the Brocade vRouter, provide a complete solution that enables mobile operators to put intelligence closer to devices and their users, reaping performance and cost benefits and enabling both network services and applications at the mobile edge.
These technologies are not just for 5G; they provide many benefits in 4G networks as well. Today, we are see mobile operators leverage SDN or NFV technologies now to solve existing network challenges. One example is Smartsky, who is using the Brocade vEPC to connect its new SmartSky 4G air-to-ground broadband network to more than 250 cell sites that will be strategically placed across the U.S. This is just one customer that is leveraging Brocade mobile technology today.
As one analyst recently told us, Brocade is unique since we don’t have a large installed base of legacy, physical devices in mobile networks to protect. However, today we do have a fully virtualized mobile network solution and we are uniquely positioned to disrupt the mobile networking industry. Download our Mobile Networking strategy white paper to learn more.