& cplSiteName &

From Virtualization to Cloudification

James Crawshaw
5/5/2017
50%
50%

A recent article in The Economist (Cloudification will mean upheaval in telecoms) describes the cloudification of telecom as the softwarization of networks. It references the ambition of Alex Choi, SK Telecom's CTO, to make radio the fourth component of cloud, after computing, storage and networking. It also refers to AT&T's ECOMP project which was recently folded into the Chinese-led OPEN-O initiative to create ONAP. The Economist also speculates on the terrifying (for operators) prospect of an Amazon Telecom Services.

Virtualization and cloudification (or cloud computing) are often used interchangeably but they are different concepts. Virtualization increases the utilization of hardware resources, running more software on a given amount of physical infrastructure. The virtualization could be at an operating system level or a network, compute or storage resource level.

Cloud computing, on the other hand, refers to the delivery of shared computing resources on demand through the Internet (public cloud) or enterprise private networks (private cloud). The beauty of public cloud services such as AWS is that they are self-serve (a credit card is all you need), highly automated, elastic/scalable and pay-as-you-go (I mentioned the credit card, right?). Cloud computing makes use of virtualization to enable the elasticity and achieve economies of scale.

So, in an NFV context, all equipment vendors need to do is port their applications that currently run on ASICs and FPGAs to run on virtual machines (VMs) running on x86 processors, right? Er, no. Most physical network functions are stateful applications, that expect to have local storage and a custom ASIC for packet processing, and are designed to scale up. Cloud-native applications have a clear separation between application processing and the associated data. The application is stateless and the states (data) are stored in "the cloud." Unless we re-architect the application to be stateless we gain few of the benefits of cloud computing. With enhanced performance of CPU, network and storage I/O, stateless applications can now achieve high performance while being easier to scale out and recover from failure.

Where these re-architected VNFs run in the network will depend on their latency and reliability requirements. Certain BSS and OSS elements could be centralized in a core data center with strong disaster recovery capability if they are critical but not latency-sensitive. Conversely, video CDN or IoT applications might be deployed closer to the users in edge data centers to ensure low latency.

Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. sees four key challenges to building a telco cloud architecture: 1) interoperability; 2) automation; 3) reliability; and 4) adaptability.

Interoperability
Current telecom networks comprise multiple network functions from myriad vendors. Interoperability tests, such as those of the NIA, are important to verify VNFs work together nicely in a cloud environment. Even if different vendors say their products are based on standard platforms such as OpenStack, they might not necessarily interoperate well with each other. The TriCircle project is an initiative to drive greater interoperability between OpenStack participants with the aim of enabling greater automation.

Automation
To be useful, cloudification should increase the efficiency of operations and make telcos more agile in the deployment of new services. A key part of this is a culture change to DevOps which enables more regular updates of applications and easy roll back should an update have unexpected consequences. DevOps introduces new tools for IT maintenance including technologies such as containers which enable greater utilization of hardware resources and therefore greater operational efficiency.

Reliability
As much as we all love the cloud, there is still an expectation of high reliability and availability of telco services. This requires DC-level and system-level reliability design, including concepts such as active-standby and active-active disaster recovery (yes, active-active is a thing). A hierarchical solution can ensure every layer has its availability design. For example, in the VM layer, OpenStack has tools to enable high availability without a single point of failure.

Adaptability
Cloud networks must adapt to the diverse workloads of CSPs such as high forwarding, high throughput, or low latency. One size does not fit all. For some applications, VMs running on x86 chips are simply not going to meet all requirements and may require the use of physical network appliances (hybrid NFV) such as core routers. In some cases, such as DPI, a VNF might run on a VM but offload some workload onto an FPGA. Of course, some techniques, like DPDK-accelerated Open vSwitch, can enhance the packet forwarding power of a VM. And the capability of ARM-based servers is increasing all the time. As such, not only do telco cloud networks need to be adaptable, so too do telco cloud architects.

This blog is sponsored by Huawei.

— James Crawshaw, Senior Analyst, OSS/BSS Transformation, Heavy Reading

(3)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
SeniorCo80666
100%
0%
SeniorCo80666,
User Rank: Lightning
5/9/2017 | 4:44:11 AM
Virtualization to Cloudification
Good article. No doubt that network function virtualization is the basic evolution step service providers want to go through, but to benifit most from it, they must gradually adopt network function cloudification. Decoupling software from hardware only, surely not enough, the software or network functions should be rearchitected or recoded so that carrier class reliability can be ensured over general purpose IT hardwares. Presumably, rearchitecting the network functions into 3 different layers and ensure stateless process layer is the basic requirement for the cloud native/cloudification phase.    
t.bogataj
50%
50%
t.bogataj,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/8/2017 | 1:52:59 AM
Re: Different
"It is good to make sure people do know the difference though."

Not to mention it is vital people hear what Huawei has to say about it.

T.
danielcawrey
50%
50%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/7/2017 | 12:35:52 PM
Different
Totally agree. Virtualization and cloud are quite different, although they can be used together to create some pretty useful technology. 

It is good to make sure people do know the difference though. 
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
Cable is well on the path to meeting 5G backhaul and small cell requirements; however, cable may face competition from mobile network operators (MNOs) and find challenges in technology and regulation limitations.
Taking the pulse of NFV and SDN deployments.
Although many service providers have already deployed software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology and believe it is an integral part of their business, a clear path to vendor success and long-term revenue isn't yet visible.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly, but the lack of standards – as well as uncertainty about its revenue potential – is a major source of frustration for communications service providers (CSPs).
Whatever strategy CSPs adopt in the emerging IoT landscape, a critical enabler of their IoT business will be the monetization engine.
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading is spending much of this year digging into the details of how automation technology will impact the comms market, but let's take a moment to also look at how automation is set to overturn the current world order by the middle of the century.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
November 1, 2017, The Royal Garden Hotel
November 1, 2017, The Montcalm Marble Arch
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue, London, UK
November 2, 2017, 8 Northumberland Avenue – London
November 10, 2017, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
November 16, 2017, ExCel Centre, London
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
May 14-17, 2018, Austin Convention Center
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
With the mobile ecosystem becoming increasingly vulnerable to security threats, AdaptiveMobile has laid out some of the key considerations for the wireless community.
Hot Topics
Is US Lurching Back to Monopoly Status?
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 10/16/2017
Muni Policies Stymie Edge Computing
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 10/17/2017
'Brutal' Automation & the Looming Workforce Cull
Iain Morris, News Editor, 10/18/2017
Pai's FCC Raises Alarms at Competitive Carriers
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large, 10/16/2017
Worried About Bandwidth for 4K? Here Comes 8K!
Aditya Kishore, Practice Leader, Video Transformation, Telco Transformation, 10/17/2017
Animals with Phones
Selfie Game Strong Click Here
Latest Comment
Live Digital Audio

Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.

During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.

She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Partner Perspectives - content from our sponsors
The Mobile Broadband Road Ahead
By Kevin Taylor, for Huawei
All Partner Perspectives