NFV (Network functions virtualization)

Affirmed Claims Mobile NFV Customers, Trials

Startup Affirmed Networks says its mobile network virtualization software is in commercial use with 10 carriers and undergoing about 15 trials with carriers around the world.

Affirmed Networks Inc. says that its AN3000 platform is software that can be used on standard blade servers to replace several legacy hardware boxes in the mobile network. NFV (network functions virtualization) software attempts to make the network cheaper and simpler by taking functions that were handled by dedicated hardware boxes and handling it via software on servers. (See Defining SDN & NFV.)

Affirmed also offers a management console so that operators can view and manage different data flows and services. "It's truly a virtualized solution, truly an NFV solution, something that does service orchestration," Affirmed CEO Hassan Ahmed tells Light Reading. (See Affirmed Brings Smarts to Mobile Data Flows.)

Ahmed says he is pleased by the traction that NFV is now seeing in the industry. "We have probably about 15 or 20 trials that are still active [and] around 10 or so commercial deployments, some with tier-one operators," he says.

The company has the most of these in Europe, "because that's what our focus was on early on, "he says, adding that the company also has commercial engagements in North America and Asia.

Ahmed says that the Acton, Mass.-based startup is not looking for more funding at the moment. The firm has pulled in $103 million since it was founded in 2010. (See June Mobile VC: $795M in Funding.)

"We’re also starting to drive sales, so, you know, some of these commercial deployments are starting to make money," he quips when we ask about new funding.

The CEO doesn't expect to face a wave of competition from new mobile NFV startups coming out of the woodwork either. "Venture guys are not going to be funding a lot of copy-cat guys because the telecoms industry is more mature than it was in the nineties," he states.

Rather Affirmed's task will be to convince operators to move off the legacy hardware to a virtualized software platform. To that end, Affirmed has kept updating its platform and has been adding more management, reporting, content handling, and content optimization functions.

The startup tests the performance and reliability of its software to show that it can scale. "We'll run stress call rates where we might run a few hundred million sessions, a couple of billion proxy transactions simultaneously," Ahmed claims.

"We're a good citizen of this industry. We're moving the ball forward," the CEO says.

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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DanJones 2/6/2014 | 11:55:17 AM
Re: No mobile NFV startups? Cool, I'll check it out.
TomNolle 2/6/2014 | 11:54:11 AM
Re: No mobile NFV startups? I don't want to run a commercial here, Dan (particularly since I've since stepped down from the role) but the CloudNFV project I ran did in fact start with these goals and demonstrated they could be met.  I'm not saying that there are no other approaches that do, only that I KNOW from experience that it is possible to meet these objectives.  I think as a practical matter that it will take cooperation between the NFV ISG and the TMF to get this all done, because the scope of the ISG is too narrow (by definition) to address broad operational issues fully.

I did a blog on the issues in more detail:  http://blog.cimicorp.com/?p=1626

DanJones 2/6/2014 | 11:42:45 AM
Re: No mobile NFV startups? Right, proably some way off achieving this list. Still a useful set of goals to hit the vendors with.
TomNolle 2/6/2014 | 11:28:24 AM
Re: No mobile NFV startups? IMHO, you have to start with some goals.  First, proper NFV should be able to envelope any running networking or cloud application in an envelope that lets it be deployed and managed without any changes to the apps.  Second, NFV should embrace any mixture of virtual-function and legacy infrastructure in its modeling, orchestration, and management.  Third, NFV has to open its interfaces to infrastructure and to the VNF wrapping process so that virtual functions can move from one implementation to another without problems and so that any network or hosting environment can be accommodated, and finally all changes to how or where something is implemented (VNF or legacy, etc.) have to be transparent to the high-level functional model.  Right now, I don't think we have industry agreement that these are even the goals, though the operators tell me in their surveys that this is what they want.
DanJones 2/6/2014 | 11:20:57 AM
Re: No mobile NFV startups? Hey Tom

What would you see as the crucial proof points that can nail something as a proper NFV system then?

TomNolle 2/4/2014 | 4:57:15 PM
Re: No mobile NFV startups? I'm not skeptical about NFV; we are a year away from specifications so it's a bit early to say it's in trouble.  I'm very skeptical about vendor claims and media coverage though.  There can be no compliant solutions at this point.  There's little in the way of rational claims out there, and nothing in the virtual network function space because without specifications for management and orchestration there is no way that anything could be "NFV" at this stage.  It's time to start demanding proof points, don't you think, and not from the standards process but from those making the claims and writing the stories.
TomNolle 2/4/2014 | 4:31:01 PM
Re: No mobile NFV startups? Who's that directed to, Mitch?
Mitch Wagner 2/4/2014 | 4:28:45 PM
Re: No mobile NFV startups? You sound skeptical about the future of NFV. Is it doomed?
DanJones 2/4/2014 | 11:59:00 AM
Re: No mobile NFV startups? Thanks guys!

Lots of helpful discussion here.
Gabriel Brown 2/4/2014 | 11:32:42 AM
Re: No mobile NFV startups? Well that aligns pretty much with what we hear. And that's why smaller vendors are tending to work with / design-for VMware.

But, still, an objective many operators have is to move more quickly. This means there needs to be development by VNF providers at the same time as the NFV platform (and specifications) development occurs. Inevitably there will be times and places where the mapping is not exact. But waiting for the perfect NFV platform to be fully specced and approved by n number of standards bodies isn't what the market wants. Co-development is needed.
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