9 Oct 2014

NFV and SDN Reloaded : Get started Telcos!

 By Sadiq Malik, Telco Strategist

According to Deutche Telecom CEO communication networks are facing a lack of scalable and sustainable architecture to meet the challenges ahead in terms of data traffic increases, video uploads and downloads, and enhanced M2M communication. But employing software-defined networking (SDN) techniques could help mobile carriers overcome those hurdles and attract new data-centric revenue streams.In a nutshell, SDN delaminates the data and control planes of the network and NFV virtualizes the functional elements of the network—routers, switches, firewalls—and expresses these functions as programs that run on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) IT hardware. While they are distinct technologies, the two work together in concert to turn the network into an infinitely programmable dynamic mesh, versus a hardware-based static map. Where SDN is the network admin gone virtual; NFV is the gear gone virtual.

Today’s mobile networks are limited and built upon a best-effort design, but that means they have latency issues and cannot dedicate high bandwidth to a particular user on the fly. Network virtualisation highlights the transformational path that operators are willing to take to counter the stress that financial pressures are putting on profitability while effectively and efficiently monetising data growth and reducing vendor lock-in. This trend clearly shows that, in order to be sustainable in the near-future, operators networks will require the right amount of mobility, ultra high-speed networks, cloud computing, big data analytics and security.

Research into NFV performed by leading analysts firms confirms the development of NFV and reveals major market potential. In November, Mind Commerce estimated that the NFV market in 2014 will be worth $203 million, and will grow at 46 percent annually until 2019, when it reaches $1.3 billion. The research firm states that the chief domains targeted by early NFV deployments will be IMS services and the EPC. Last August ABI Research predicted a similar growth curve, with a potential $6 billion market for virtual networking by 2018. A new study from ReportsnReports.com forecasts that the NFV, SDN and wireless network infrastructure market will reach $5 billion by the turn of the decade, driven by rising global wireless capital expenditures and growing demand for high-speed mobile broadband. Wireless carriers will play a critical role in the SDN value chain, and that carriers will initially focus on southbound APIs and switch fabric, SDN and virtualization that will enable IMS optimization and realization of investment, and that by 2016 carriers will focus more on northbound APIs and create full development environments.

Network virtualisation allows operators to simulate network resources through SDN and NFV technologies that decouple, run and optimise different functions of the network.The industry is evolving from proprietary equipment networks to IT-based data centre networks that employ technologies such as software-defined networking (SDN), network function virtualisation (NFV), cloud-computing and big data analytics to provide a variety of converged services to consumers. NFV is highly complementary to SDN. Network functions can be virtualised and deployed without an SDN being required and vice-versa. According to ETSI, early NFV deployments are already getting underway and are expected to accelerate during 2014-15.Software-defined networking (SDN) and Network Functions Visualization (NFV) will drive changes in data security investment, according to a new report from Infonetics Research. Their Data Center Security Products report noted a shift in how organizations protect digital properties, including a 44 percent rise in the sale of purpose-built virtual security appliances. They anticipate a fairly significant revenue transition from hardware appliances to virtual appliances and purpose-built security solutions that interface directly with hypervisors, with SDN controllers via APIs, or orchestration platforms.

Rather surprisingly, communications service providers (CSPs) themselves, not vendors, are driving the development of network virtualization technologies. The potential to dramatically accelerate new service delivery, lower operating costs, and eliminate vendor lock-in has CSPs salivating and network equipment vendors scrambling. Vendors who sell proprietary network gear don’t exactly welcome the thought of their intellectual property being replaced by standardized software running on commodity hardware. This has pushed the timeline for SDN and NFV further out, and prompted more than a few analysts to pull the hype card.The virtualization of service and control functions in the core network has been a first step in using cloud computing technology in the telco domain. However, for a full telco cloud implementation, virtualization needs to be complemented with a complete cloud platform and management system. This must include classical network management for legacy systems, plus virtualized network function, cloud orchestration and application management to achieve the full benefits of automated provisioning and elastic scaling of the network.

Driven by the promise of total cost of ownership reduction, wireless carriers are aggressively jumping on the NFV and SDN bandwagon, targeting integration across a multitude of areas including radio access network, mobile core, OSS/BSS, backhaul, and CPE/home environment.Telecom Italia has been among the tier 1 telcos driving the move to NFV. Along with AT&T, BT Group, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefonica and Verizon, the company a couple years ago pushed network functions virtualization into the spotlight by creating an ETSI group to explore the technology. The key goals of the NFV Working Group are to reduce equipment costs and power consumption, improve time to market, enable the availability of multiple applications on a single network appliance with the multi-version and multi-tenancy capabilities, and encourage a more dynamic ecosystem through the development and use of software-only solutions.

Telefonica’s UNICA platform is initially focused on virtualising signaling-related functions, including IMS (IP multimedia sub-system, DNS (domain name system), SMSC (short message service centre) and OCS (online charging system). The second phase will look at virtualising functions that carry traffic such as the core packet network. Telefonica’s NFV programme is notably designed to “source different functions to different suppliers” and avoid vendor lock-ins. The company wants to design a virtualised network architecture that allows vendor interoperability.Telefonica’s NFV programme is notably designed to “source different functions to different suppliers” and avoid vendor lock-ins. The company has designed a virtualised network architecture that allows vendor interoperability in order to enable a multi-vendor environment from day one.

Meanwhile AT&T, has introduced its vision for the company’s network of the future: the ‘User- Defined Network Cloud.’ AT&T claims their the cloud-based architecture is “a global first at this scale.” The operator also announced the group of vendors that will work on implementing this strategy. The carrier expects its revamped architecture will accelerate time-to-market for technologically advanced products and services. Integrated through AT&T’s wide-area network (WAN) and using NFV and SDN, the architecture is expected to simplify and scale AT&T’s network by separating hardware and software functionality, separating network control plane and forwarding planes, and improving functionality management in the software layer.This move to software-based telco environments will not only help incumbent providers become more agile and adapt to market trends and subscriber demands more effectively, but will open up the market to new players who may not have had such deep pockets needed to develop proprietary hardware. It will allow new carriers to quickly scale and compete, as they won’t have to load up on costly central office equipment to get started.

Telco Strategist Sadiq Malik will be speaking on day 2 of AfricaCom 2014 in the SDN & Network Virtualization stream. If you haven't got your AfricaCom ticket yet, register for FREE here: http://bit.ly/AfricaCom2014  

Source: http://maliksadiq13.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/nfv-and-sdn-reloaded-get-started-telcos/