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.
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.
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.