By Shekar Ayyar
Virtualization changed the data center forever. Data centers have become far more efficient thanks to virtualized servers, networking, and storage, enabling IT to provision resources far more quickly and with greater efficiency than before.
Communications service providers (CSPs) have a similar opportunity for transformative gains in the core network and several have already started to take advantage of that. Traditional telcos (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Rogers, etc.) rely on a hardware architecture that has ‘done the job’ for decades, but are slow to change. CSPs are more or less locked into their existing vendors, unable to switch products or technologies easily.
But now CSPs can take advantage of the agility virtualization provides to compete with upstarts such as WhatsApp, Netflix, and other so-called OTT (over-the-top) services that are enticing customers to cut the cord and give up on traditional cable and telco services altogether.
At VMWorld 2015 Europe, VMware announced new network function virtualization (NFV) offerings designed to help CSPs accelerate their transition to the telco cloud architecture through the implementation of network function virtualization. To increase competitiveness and agility, global carriers assembled through ETSI in 2012 and coined the term NFV (network functions virtualization) for their collective aim of taking the benefits of virtualization and cloud into the core of their networks).
Accelerating NFV Deployment
VMware vCloud NFV brings together the core virtualization and management components to accelerate deployment of a unified, multi-vendor and multi-function NFV platform that supports any application at all stages of cloud evolution. The vCloud NFV platform supports more than 40 virtual network functions from 30 different VNF vendors, the most of any solution on the market.
You can, for example, deploy our solution on any number of industry-standard hardware platforms from such leading infrastructure vendors as Dell, EMC, Cisco, HP, IBM, Fujitsu, and others and mix & match between them. Several Network Equipment Providers (NEPs), both traditional and new, are also getting certified as compatible with the VMware platform.
If flexibility is the primary benefit of NFV, an important secondary benefit is cost savings. With the new cloud architecture in place, service providers will build and own their own cloud platforms; no longer will they rely on their legacy equipment providers to build, implement, and manage the services for them. This agility gives the CSP more control of its own destiny and success in the market.
A Clear Opportunity for CSPs
Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a data center that hasn’t virtualized at least part, if not most, of its infrastructure. By contrast, most CSPs haven’t invested much at all in their core network when it comes to virtualization. But I believe the benefits of doing so are so compelling, that in the next five to seven years, virtualization will be part of every CSP’s infrastructure.
VMware’s virtualization technology already enables leading global service providers such as Vodafone, Ooredoo, IIJ, and Vip Mobile deliver mission-critical network functions such as IMS, Voice over LTE and virtual Evolved Packet Core as well as ‘virtual CPE’ network functions such as firewalls, load balancers, and SD-WAN capabilities. We continue to double down on our efforts to help CSPs create one consistent infrastructure environment to rapidly and securely build, run and deliver any traditional or cloud-native virtual network function.
(The author, Shekar Ayyar, is Corporate Senior Vice President, Strategy and Corporate Development and General Manager, Telco NFV Group, VMware)