& cplSiteName &

The Rise of Virtual EPC

Gabriel Brown
3/26/2014
50%
50%

Any customer of Heavy Reading research services will know that network functions virtualization (NFV) is now one the most critical initiatives in telecom networking. The technology applies to virtually all parts of telco network and the Evolved Packet Core (EPC), in particular, has emerged as one of the more tangible examples of how NFV can be useful -- even transformative -- in carrier networks.

Virtual EPC was an emergent theme at the 2013 Mobile World Congress, with Cisco, NEC, and Intel showing demos, and at the 2014 event it was one of the biggest networking stories at the show. AT&T's announcement that it would work with virtual EPC startup Affirmed Networks epitomized this. (See AT&T's Cloud Future Takes Shape.)

There are, I think, two primary reasons for this interest in virtual EPC: (1) because EPC is a substantial enough application that it would present meaningful progress for an NFV initiative; and (2) because the nature of the application lends itself to virtualization, making virtual EPC "doable" as well as meaningful.

In my new Heavy Reading report, "The Rise of Virtual EPC: A Mobile Packet Core Forecast & Analysis," I examine these drivers in more detail.

We know from our mobile operator research that demand for virtualized mobile core is real. There is enthusiasm from mobile network operators for a software-centric core network that is programmable and can be more easily customized and optimized for end-user needs. In principle, they say, the model is very attractive.

Equally, it is clear that there will be a long period of development of virtual EPC, for reasons of technical maturity and operator investment cycles. In practice this means adoption will be piecemeal and initially focused on less-critical, smaller-scale use cases.

In the first instance, virtual EPC will tend to be deployed in parallel to the main production EPC and will focus on machine-to-machine (M2M) and customized enterprise services. These types of services can have specific traffic profiles that might benefit from a particular EPC configuration (and specifically, a virtual P-GW configuration), and they provide an opportunity for operators to experiment with a virtual core without putting mass-market services at risk.

There is also a substantial near- to medium-term opportunity for virtualization in what is sometimes called the SGi-LAN – the services complex between the 3GPP-defined mobile core and external networks. These functions, such as DPI, Web proxy, video optimization, content and charging gateways, and firewalls, can be virtualized and mapped to software-configured service chains to create a more efficient and programmable value-added services domain. Startup ConteXtream is one of the pioneers of this concept.

Over time, there's potential for both approaches to evolve and, eventually, to transform the mobile core. For example, it will be possible to combine SGi and EPC functions into bespoke, software-configured service chains. And virtualized P-GWs, initially targeted at early adopter enterprises, will scale to more customer types and be used to add capacity to (and in time start to replace) the "classic EPC" as the technology matures.

In terms of vendor positioning, all of them now endorse the idea of virtual EPC, and over the past 12 months, spurred on by operators, most have come to embrace the opportunity wholeheartedly.

I'll write more about this in a follow-up column, but for more detail, the full report covers the following vendors: Affirmed Networks Inc., Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco Systems Inc., Connectem Inc., Ericsson AB, Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., Mavenir Systems Inc., NEC Corp., Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN), Samsung Group, and ZTE Corp.

— Gabriel Brown, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading

(2)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Gabriel Brown
50%
50%
Gabriel Brown,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/27/2014 | 4:55:46 AM
Re: Early win
"Virtual EPC is an opportunity to demonstrate an early win and accelerate deployment of NFV"

^ That's a view that companies working to develop the NFV eco-system present (e.g. Intel). EPC is a substantial and important enough of an application to be meaningful. More so than, say, CG-NAT or a TAS.

The benefits to mobile operators at this stage are less clear cut. There is interest in EPC -- more than kicking the tyres -- but for the most part it's experimental or small-scale. That's why the nearer-term market opportunity is in parallel (overlay) deployments for, say, M2M or for other small-scale uses.

There is interest from greenfield operators as well -- e.g. NEC's claims its deployment in Myanmar is the first commercial vEPC. Osnova Telecom in Russia was also named in Cisco's vEPC press release.

One challenge for virtual EPC is that existing platforms are good at what they do.
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/26/2014 | 2:48:29 PM
Early win
Virtual EPC is an opportunity to demonstrate an early win and accelerate deployment of NFV. Operators looking to find benefits to NFV can look to successful virtual EPC deployments for an example.
More Blogs from Heavy Lifting Analyst Notes
For most service providers, NFV adoption is going to be a gradual process that will most likely include three phases.
The approach taken by cloud service providers to hyper-scale data centers and virtual networking is driving the latest multicore processor developments.
As the march towards virtualization continues, containers will come into their own.
As the industry moves toward virtualized solutions in data centers, developers are creating switches to help with the bandwidth backlog service providers are experiencing. As a result, vendors are putting more switch devices on the market than at any time in the past decade.
The management and orchestration of virtualized networks is one of the toughest challenges facing operators and their technology suppliers, so there are plenty of initiatives and vendors addressing it.
From The Founder
Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Interviews
Heavy Reading: The Web-Scale View

1|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Rome, Heavy Reading's former chief analyst Patrick Donegan shared insight from the recent web-scale operators report, which featured research on how web-scale operators view the market, the best web-scale companies to ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Cloud Scale Networking: Automation, Virtualization & Simplification

1|18|17   |     |   (0) comments


Cisco's Sanjeev Mervana outlines the latest innovations in networking technology at CES 2017 in Las Vegas.
LRTV Custom TV
ADVA Talks Innovation & the Future of Networking

1|17|17   |     |   (0) comments


Ray Le Maistre and Christoph Glingener, CTO of ADVA Optical Networking, discuss the current state of the industry, cooperation and collaboration, open innovation and the future of networking.
LRTV Custom TV
Cisco's Infinite Video Platform

1|17|17   |     |   (0) comments


Cisco's Infinite Video Platform allows service providers to deliver broadcast-quality video over IP networks. Infinite video supports many devices, from 4K TVs to tablets to game consoles. Join Cisco's Rajeev Raman for a brief tour and live demo.
LRTV Interviews
Masergy: Ability to Adapt Key for NFV

1|16|17   |   6:40   |   (0) comments


Speaking at Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Masergy's VP, Global Technology, Ray Watson, said agility is key to providing the mix and match NFV-based services that are driving business for the managed service provider today.
LRTV Interviews
Equinix: The Data Explosion

1|13|17   |   4:16   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Eric Schwartz, president of EMEA, Equinix, talked about how Equinix is helping its customers manage the influx of data today, and how it's preparing for a future filled with millions of connected IoT devices.
LRTV Interviews
Heavy Reading: The Changing Data Center Landscape

1|12|17   |   6:05   |   (1) comment


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision event in Rome, Heavy Reading's Senior Analyst Roz Roseboro talks about how virtualization is impacting data center evolution and how that evolution is affecting the relationship between service providers, data center operators and public cloud providers.
LRTV Interviews
Boingo: Prepping for Millions of Devices

1|12|17   |   5:07   |   (1) comment


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision in Rome, Boingo's CTO Derek Peterson discusses how wireless operators will address the needs of low-bandwidth and high-bandwidth apps at the same time, the need for more MHz, the impact of IoT and more.
LRTV Interviews
Comcast Shows Off Gig Gateway at CES

1|11|17   |     |   (1) comment


With its largest presence at CES in years, Comcast took the wraps off its long-awaited gigabit gateway and a new platform for managing the home WiFi network. Light Reading Senior Editor Mari Silbey sat down with EVP Chris Satchell to discuss the latest Comcast advance, and met with VP of Product Strategy and Development Andrea Peiro to walk through a demo of the ...
LRTV Interviews
Colt: End-to-End Key for 2017

1|10|17   |   6:21   |   (0) comments


At Light Reading's 2020 Vision Executive Summit in Rome, Nico Fischbach of Colt said having a multi-carrier, end-to-end service proposition is going to be key for 2017 -- and SD-WAN is instrumental in making it happen.
From the Founder
Cisco's Clemson on Mobile Cloud Video

1|9|17   |     |   (1) comment


Cisco's Conrad Clemson, recently promoted to head up the company's Service Provider Apps & Platforms developments, talks to Light Reading's Founder and CEO Steve Saunders about how he's bringing cloud video, mobile and virtualization together to empower network operators. "If you think about where we're going… whether it's a mobile application, or a video ...
LRTV Custom TV
VMware Telco NFV Solutions – Preparing for 5G & IOT

1|9|17   |     |   (0) comments


Shekar Ayyar, EVP & Corporate Strategy/General Manager of Telco for VMware, discusses VMware's Telco NFV solutions role and foundation for the Imminent Arrival of 5G & IOT.
Upcoming Live Events
March 21-22, 2017, The Curtis Hotel, Denver, CO
May 15-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
Hot Topics
A Women in Comms Glossary
Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms, 1/18/2017
Is Cable One Beefing Up for Slaughter?
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 1/20/2017
Nokia CTO: 2017 Is the Year 5G Gets in the Field
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 1/19/2017
TV's Paradox: No HDR Without 4K
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 1/17/2017
Cable Has One Thing Verizon Needs
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 1/17/2017
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Light Reading founder and CEO Steve Saunders chats with Sportlogiq CEO Craig Buntin about sports data analysis.
Eyal Waldman, CEO of Mellanox Technologies, speaks to Steve Saunders, CEO of Light Reading, for an exclusive interview about the 100 GB cable challenge, cybersecurity and much more.
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Playing it safe can only get you so far. Sometimes the biggest bets have the biggest payouts, and that is true in your career as well. For this radio show, Caroline Chan, general manager of the 5G Infrastructure Division of the Network Platform Group at Intel, will share her own personal story of how she successfully took big bets to build a successful career, as well as offer advice on how you can do the same. We’ll cover everything from how to overcome fear and manage risk, how to be prepared for where technology is going in the future and how to structure your career in a way to ensure you keep progressing. Chan, a seasoned telecom veteran and effective risk taker herself, will also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air.