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Huawei Unfolds SDN Roadmap

Ray Le Maistre

Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. outlined its "SoftCOM" software-defined networking (SDN) strategy to industry analysts and media in London late Thursday, giving some insight into where the Chinese vendor believes it can add value to network operators' next-generation infrastructure strategies.

This wasn't the first outing for SoftCOM: It made an appearance on the Huawei stand at the Broadband World Forum show in Amsterdam last October for anyone peering closely at the small print (like us…). (See SoftCOM: Huawei's Take on SDN.)

While the London presentation didn't deliver anything strange or startling -- Huawei's approach follows the same basic principles as any technology equipment company wanting a piece of the SDN action -- it did provide a broader picture of Huawei's aims and identify particular areas of attention for the vendor's SDN-focused R&D team.

It also introduced some new terminology that, hopefully, won't make it any further than this week's marketing materials -- "cloudlization" (and that is the correct spelling) should be filed under "end of line" as quickly as possible, where it should be joined by its close (but distinct) relative "cloudization."

Away from the nomenclature, here are the highlights of Huawei's approach.

The overall picture is a familiar one: Current communications architectures are "closed, complicated and controlling" and need to be "open, simplified and enabling."

This latter state, in Huawei's view (and in tune with others in the industry), can be achieved through the use of:

  • SDN technologies (separate control and data planes)
  • The virtualization of network elements, such as session border controllers (SBCs)
  • Hosted OSS and BSS functions within a cloud services-enabled telecom data center
  • The mass deployment of cloud services -- Infrastructure–as-a-service, Platform–as-a-service and Software–as-a-service.

The vendor also envisages a network architecture that would distribute cloud/hosting capabilities across the network -- at edge aggregation points and in metro nodes as well as in regional and national data centers. That same vision was also shared by Ericsson AB earlier this week. (See Ericsson Gets Trendy for MWC.)

All of this functionality would, in theory, minimize capex, reduce operational complexity, increase efficiency and flexibility, vastly improve time-to-market for new services/applications and, with additional intelligence and insight from the use of "Big Data" business intelligence techniques, improve customer experience levels.

"It's comprehensive but it's a vision statement -- there's a lot of detail that needs to be filled in," notes Heavy Reading Chief Analyst Graham Finnie, who attended the presentation. "It's pretty much what you'd expect from a large vendor such as Huawei."

What particularly caught Finnie's eye were Huawei's initial areas of R&D focus. It is developing SDN tools that can be deployed in an IP radio access network (IP RAN) architecture. It's also building network functions virtualization (NFV) capabilities for the multiple elements -- home subscriber server (HSS), the serving and packet data network (PDN) gateways and the mobility management entity (MME) -- that comprise the 4G evolved packet core (EPC). Other network elements that will get the NFV treatment in Huawei's R&D labs include the SBC and various IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) functions.

Huawei expects to engage in commercial trials in 2014 and achieve commercial deployment in 2015. By that time, hopefully, "cloudlization" will be just a distant memory.

In the meantime, Huawei will be talking more about SoftCOM during Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where SDN, NFV and all manner of Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) developments will be in the spotlight.

In addition, you can get a more in-depth Huawei take on its SoftCOM approach by checking out this video: Huawei SoftCOM: Reshaping the Future of Network Architecture.

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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