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VMWare & Intel – Partnering for 5G Success

By Gabriele Di Piazza, Vice President Solution Telco NFV at VMware

I joined the Telco Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) group at VMware just over a year ago. During that time, I have seen significant, industry advancements around software driven architectures, commercial solutions and more robust customer deployments.

NFV is not just a transformative technology; it is a foundational technology in the sense that it will provide the foundation on which communication service providers (CSPs) move from monolithic, inflexible networks towards software-driven, agile networks with built-in technological and operational intelligence. And, this digital transformation cannot come soon enough.

As access to the Internet becomes ubiquitous around the globe and the proliferation of digital services, sensors and networks continues to skyrocket exponentially, CSPs are constantly challenged to maintain and build network infrastructure to support the scale and bandwidth requirements. These network demands will only become more acute with the imminent arrival of 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Beyond bandwidth, CSPs and their profit margins face increased competition from over the top (OTT) providers. OTT providers are generating revenue from high margin services on top of telco networks. Meanwhile, traditional CoSPs are still monetizing only basic voice and data services and increasingly struggle to differentiate their own services.

As an industry, continuing to maintain and support traditional network infrastructure can collectively cost CSPs trillions of dollars. NFV provides an opportunity for CSPs to rethink network infrastructure and to leverage a software-driven architecture to support a cloud-based digital world. By transforming to NFV, CSPs can benefit from major OPEX and CAPEX cost savings. The new, software-driven architecture gives CSPs the ability to accelerate the market introduction of new and personalized services, which can contribute to new revenue and improved customer experiences, while making more efficient use of network resources, which provides CAPEX savings.

VMware continues to grow its NFV business, bringing its expertise and success in the IT industry to the network side. With more than 90 NFV deployments by more than 50 CSPs serving 350 million subscribers worldwide, VMware vCloud NFV simplifies network operations, accelerates service innovation and delivery and reduces costs. Organizations can use the vCloud NFV platform to deploy a multi-vendor, multi-function NFV platform that delivers service automation, secure multi-tenancy, operations management and carrier grade reliability. VMware has created a true marketplace for customers to build new services based on best-in-class virtual network functions. Today, the VMware ecosystem includes 30 virtual network functions (VNF) from 23 vendors that are certified as VMware Ready for NFV. By deploying the vCloud NFV platform, CSP customers can build, provision and sell new services in days instead of months, positively influencing customer quality of experience, and significantly improve OPEX and CAPEX.

A key part of our ability to provide our customers NFV solutions with carrier-grade performance is our partnership with Intel. Leveraging Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, the next-generation platforms for cloud-optimized, 5G-ready networks, VMware is able to provide better performance to CSPs. With an open architecture that efficiently scales and adapts to handle the demands of emerging applications, the platform provides a future-ready foundation for agile networks.

The Intel Xeon Scalable processors operate with cloud economics, and support the rapid and secure delivery of enhanced services enabled by 5G, including autonomous driving and augmented reality. With the convergence of key workloads such as applications and services, control plane processing, high-performance packet processing and signal processing onto industry-standard Intel Xeon Scalable processor platforms, CSPs can accelerate their transition to a virtualized, software-defined infrastructure.

Tests performed by Intel have shown up to 4.2x greater VM density. With the integrated, Intel Xeon Scalable processors, vCloud NFV supports native drivers that deliver improved throughput and performance. This increase is due to the removal of the previously required translation layer. This advancement creates a framework for greater agility and lower total cost of ownership and provides a stable foundation for software defined initiatives that utilize vCloud NFV.

Intel and VMware are jointly innovating to advance NFV solutions. One of the key challenges of NFV is the ease of onboarding virtual network functions (VNFs). Earlier this year at Mobile World Congress 2017, our companies announced a critical new initiative to accelerate the adoption of telecom services over virtualized infrastructure. Together, Intel and VMware developed a set of web based tools that make generating basic TOSCA (Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications) blueprints as simple as filling out a web form.

By building portable TOSCA templates and using management and orchestration (MANO) solutions that support TOSCA, VNF onboarding becomes agnostic to both MANO and the virtualized infrastructure manager (VIM) vendor. This advancement reduces the time, cost and risk for onboarding new VNFs, and accelerates speed-to-market for new services.

Moving forward, Intel and VMware will continue to partner to advance NFV solutions and enable CSPs to drive rapid service deployment. Together, the companies provide CSPs in the 5G-enabled world with the NFV solutions to support extreme levels of scalability, agility, programmability and security across an ever-growing volume and variety of networking workloads—from the network core to the edge.

It is both necessary and urgent that CSPs transform purpose-built, fixed function networks in order to implement new business models, drive faster innovation and meet enterprise and consumer service level expectations in the 5G era. The transition to a new generation of open networks, based on flexible and optimized industry-standard servers and virtualized and orchestrated network services, is the essential first step. For more information visit: www.vmware.com/go/nfv

This blog was first posted on Intel® Network Builders Social Hub

MNOs come out fighting: the great industry come-back

Doing nothing is not an option

There’s a groundswell of chatter and opinion-sharing about the pressures swirling around the network; perfect storm formations of connected things, smarter devices, and 5th generation mobile networks. For a long time, we’ve been able to feel 5G in the air.

It would be a mistake to do nothing in the light of these trends. MNOs cannot take refuge in established mainstream subscriber services, and simply offer more competitive rates. Analysis Mason’s predictions for the telecoms, media and technology sectors 2017 features digital experience as the third big thing in its top ten predictions: “Network operators will increasingly use digital experience initiatives to appeal to digital natives.”

Fourth on the same list is a suggestion that “an increase in the volume of mobile video traffic will lead network operators to invest in virtualized video delivery and traffic management solutions.”

In a recent blog – Monetizing the network: operators’ new models – my colleague addressed the ‘dumb pipe’ syndrome. He suggested that only by meeting new subscriber demand for more sophisticated services could operators expect to retain and build business. Meeting this demand requires an honest reassessment of how fit the business is, in its current format, to accommodate new demands subscribers are making on their service providers.

It can be done. All is far from doom and gloom. Focus is important; leaving the past behind and turning the business on its axis. Everything is getting smart. Once upon a time it was just the mobile phone. Now connected cars are well on their way and wearables are gaining pace of adoption and consumer popularity. Deloitte’s 2017 Telecommunications Industry Outlook observes:

…”wearables such as smart watches and fitness bands have seen tremendous percentage growth. Smartwatch penetration doubled from 2014 to 2015 and tripled in 2016; smartwatches have now penetrated roughly 12 percent of the mobile consumer market in the US.”

Market dynamics

One is tempted to wonder which type of organization stands most to benefit from network-dependent new technologies, such as the Digital Assistant. Will disruptors continue to cannibalize the market? History suggests that they will, unless market dynamics change.

Past incursions such as Skype, WhatsApp, and Facebook have established an evolutionary pattern – the fittest are surviving and thriving. These OTT service providers are delivering exciting and relevant services that customers are finding to be more useful and engaging than traditional services. What’s more, they are delivering these services through the pipes built by the MNOs.

Look no further than this year’s CES, where Amazon’s Alexa stole the show and is already being incorporated in products from LG, Lenovo, GE and even Ford, the latter putting it into cars.

If these significant recent trends are anything to go by it is easy to imagine that these organizations, and others like them, are already planning their service propositions to meet IoT and its potentially limitless manifestations.

Claim your share

Here’s some advice that has stood the test of time ever since Fleetwood Mac released Rumours, back in 1977:

Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow, Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here,

It’ll be, better than before, Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.

Tomorrow will only be better than before for MNOs if they take such advice and start obsessing about tomorrow. Any five-years out view, based on offering network services as they are today, is simply not realistic. ‘Better than before’ is not a right. It has to be claimed.

Here’s what KPMG had to say last year about tomorrow for the ‘traditional telco’:“(it) will struggle to survive beyond the next decade …unless it embraces the opportunity presented by digital.” [1]

A need to adapt is clearly emerging as a theme in just about every blog and pronouncement you read nowadays. Everybody agrees that the fittest will survive and I was delighted to note another observation from KPMG that largely concurred with my own long-held views:

“Their (Telcos’) first challenge must be to shift the prevailing business mind-set from one focused on engineering to one focused on the customer. There remains a legacy culture in some Telcos in which the customer is a secondary consideration to engineering.” [2]

The new battleground

My colleague talked about the need for agility in provisioning new services in a blog ‘MNOs might never be the same again’. Legacy network infrastructures, or – more to the point – the legacy style of thinking that goes with them, are highly suspect as foundations for competitive agility in the future. Customer focus will be the new battleground – requiring new thinking and a new, agile approach to network technologies that permit speed of response and dynamic services provision.

Video, picked out in Analysis Mason’s predictions, is but one area to prepare for. IoT will be soon upon us. MNOs need to be ready to meet the demands of the modern customer. Providing digital services and great customer experiences is necessary to win. The most important thing is to recognize the need for change now. It will all soon be here. A transition to software-driven architecture, providing the agility and flexibility that a changing world craves, can be made in such a way as to retain many of the robust and still valuable capabilities derived from existing investments.

How realistic is it to move swiftly to a customer-centric business mind-set? I’d welcome your views on the great MNO come-back, particularly with regards to the people skills you think are most likely to make it possible and how those skills can be deployed.

Don’t miss the VMware NFV activities at Mobile World Congress 2017!

MWC-bannerVisit VMware at Stand K10, Hall 3.

VMware will be hosting a range of activities and things to do at this year’s Mobile World Congress; from an experiential demonstration of a 5G world, through to IoT and the connected car . See how VMware is not only helping service providers generate value today, but is shaping the future of NFV!

Below is a summary of the main activities for your event planner…

Continue reading

VMware is Shaping the Future of NFV at Mobile World Congress 2017

MWC banner

VMware will have a significant presence at this year’s Mobile World Congress, including a range of Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) demonstrations and presentations at our booth in hall 3, stand K10. Continue reading

Meet VMware NFV Experts at Light Reading’s “OSS in the Era of SDN and NFV” Event.

On November 3rd in London VMware colleagues and myself will be joining industry leaders at this Light Reading event. We will be discussing the impact of virtualization on higher-order Operational Support Systems (OSS), and considering whether this is ‘evolution or revolution’.

Across the globe many operators already rely on VMware infrastructure for their OSS (and internal IT) services. Whether through the deployment of OSS applications on a VMware vSphere environment, or through embedded VMware technology in third party OSS products from leading network equipment providers (NEPs).

NFV and SDN are all about creating a software-defined virtualized service delivery platform. OSS systems largely run on virtualised environments today. So on the face of it, bringing together a virtualized OSS environments and a virtualized service delivery platform should be straight forward – shouldn’t it? Continue reading

VMware NFV Executive Forum Comes To Barcelona and VMworld Europe 2016

Hot on the heels of the massively successful Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) Executive Forum at VMworld Las Vegas, the VMware Telco NFV team will be running another NFV Executive Forum as part of VMworld Europe in Barcelona next week.

The NFV Executive Forum facilitates networking and discussion amongst executives and experts from leading communication service providers (CSPs) and VMware’s successful NFV vendor ecosystem.

As in Las Vegas, the European event will have an interactive format and focus on helping customers understand how they can reduce costs and increase agility by virtualizing their service delivery platform. Continue reading

Live 4G Mobile Applications Deployment Demonstration on the VMware vCloud NFV Platform at Mobile World Congress

This post was co-authored by Dharma Rajan, Philip Kippen, and Mikael Brihed – VMware

Recently at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, VMware demonstrated a reliable, model-driven approach for Voice over Long Term Evolution (VoLTE) mobile calling. The demonstration included application modeling, application blueprinting, provisioning, configuration, virtual network functions (VNFs) deployment, end-to-end service activation, and making live mobile calls using 4G LTE devices, with the entire process taking less than ten minutes, start to finish. This was the industry’s first and fastest network function virtualization (NFV) demonstration, proving that NFV is real and achievable for telecom environments in multi-vendor ecosystems, with service provider-expected quality of service. This demonstration is proof of VMware infrastructure platform readiness for volume deployment in production for service providers.

VMware collaborated with its customer Ooredoo as its partner in this demonstration. Ooredoo is the largest service provider in the Middle East region, deploying NFV on a VMware vCloud® NFV™ infrastructure (NFVI) common platform infrastructure base. Ooredoo has been very successful at designing and deploying in a production OneCloud environment, using VMware vSphere® for compute virtualization, VMware NSX® for network virtualization and security, VMware vCloud Director® for secure multi-tenancy, VMware vRealize® Operations™ suite for management, VMware vRealize® Automation™ with Application Director and VMware Site Recovery Manger™ for disaster recovery, driving a fully carrier-grade NFV deployment that only VMware infrastructure can provide.

VMware provides the NFVI platform, which can host multi-vendor VNFs or multi-VNFs from a single vendor in the vCloud NFV environment. Athonet, a VMware partner, provided the VNFs for virtual Evolved Packet Core (vEPC) and for virtual IP Multimedia Subsystem (vIMS), as well as the Home Subscriber Server (HSS). The following VNFs from Athonet were deployed on the VMware infrastructure:

vApps – vEPC: VNFs include:

  • Serving Gateway (SGW) and Packet Data Network Gateway (PGW) for the user plane.
  • Mobility Management Entity (MME) for the control plane.
  • Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF) for application layer functions.

vApps – vIMS: VNFs include:

  • Session Border Controller (SBC) and Proxy Call Session Control Function (P-CSCF) for the signaling plane.
  • Interrogating CSCF (I-CSCF) and Serving CSCF (S-CSCF), which support Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) as per 3GPP standards to handle mobile call service.
  • Media Gateway Call Function (MGCF) for connection to legacy PSTN networks.

vApp HSS: The HSS was pre-deployed and pre-provisioned with subscriber data.

How Fast, “Fast” Really Is – From VNF to VoLTE Service Deployment

Figure 1 shows the demo environment’s NFV architecture.

Figure 1. NFV Demo Architecture

Figure 1. NFV Demo Architecture

The VNF software runs as application software, fully decoupled from the operating system. Thus, each VNF runs as a native application. The entire process of deploying 10+ VNFs was completed in a matter of less than four minutes. A small cell radio access node installed at the MWC arena provided the needed cell tower access for air interface. After the first vEPC and vIMS are deployed, service activation allows the small cell to be powered up, and be ready for call processing. The virtualized NFV system is now ready to handle mobile calls. Figure 2 shows a view of mobile call flows for a VoLTE call, and call flow path leveraging the external PSTN network.  Figure 3 shows the logical VXLAN networks and connectivity defined for the VNFs in the service package.

Figure 2. VoLTE Call Flow Model

Figure 2. VoLTE Call Flow Model

 

Figure 3. VXLAN Network Connectivity

Figure 3. VXLAN Network Connectivity

 

 VoLTE internal calls within the MWC event arena and external calls using mobile phone numbers of voluntary audience were successfully demonstrated. The audience experienced the fast deployment, service activation process and were also were able to experience the clear voice call quality with no delay.

The sequence of steps and the demo can be seen in the video below:
NFV Demo Video-MWC

Don’t deploy NFV as ‘New Legacy’

With many predicting 2017 as the year in which telco service cost per bit will exceed achievable revenues, operators must act quickly and effectively if they are to avoid large parts of their revenue streams becoming non-profitable.

With this in mind, Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)) has captured the imagination of the telecommunications industry. According to iHS (formally Infonetics), 35% of Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are planning to deploy NFV in 2015. Will they all succeed? I suspect not.

The fact is, there are many ways in which NFV could simply perpetuate the status quo. In deploying NFV CSPs may be deploying a ‘new legacy’. That is, creating software-defined silos where previously there were hardware-defined silos. These software silos can be just as inflexible, just as expensive and just as locked-in as their physical counterparts. Continue reading