CHICAGO -- Light Reading's Big Telecom Event -- Alcatel-Lucent's Basil Alwan spent part of his keynote this week grappling with what networking functions and elements will get swept away by the tide of virtualization and which can't simply be replaced by software and cheap servers.
Alwan, president of IP routing and transport for Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), stated that there is a "tremendous pressure" of change on vendors and carriers as SDN and NFV shake up what networking is and can be, but there's also a "tremendous opportunity."
Some things, however, will not change. "Software defined or not software defined, we still need big routers," Alwan told the audience.
Lest you think that the vendor guy is simply a King Canute trying to hold back the software tide and shore up his margins, Alwan gave examples of where the company has realized it has to work with third-party platforms and software.
For instance, AlcaLu's SDN spin-in, Nuage Networks , has built its platform on hardware from Arista Networks Inc. and HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ), among others. The company's Cloudband virtualization platform pulls in third-party elements, too. (See How Alcatel-Lucent Set a Telco Cloud Example and Alcatel-Lucent Expands CloudBand.)
The key, Alwan says, is knowing which functions of the network can be abstracted with software and x86 servers and which will still require dedicated network elements. "I like to call it network function optimization, rather than virtualization."
Specifically, he thinks that elements like the mobility management entity (MME) in the packet core could be substituted with software on an x86 platform. Hardcore IP routing elements designed with SLA requirements in mind, he says, are built around dedicated network processor performance that PC-derived x86 silicon simply can't match yet.
"It'll be five years, easy," before performance starts to get good enough, Alwan said.
So, for Alwan and AlcaLu, this is what the idealized evolution of the network will look like.
What say you, readers?
— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading