BARCELONA -- Mobile World Congress -- Behind the marketing glitz of new devices, apps and small cells, network functions virtualization (NFV) has been the underground buzz here in Barcelona as network technology companies come to terms with what major operators consider to be the future of their wide area networks.
While the term "virtualization" hasn't been plastered all over the booths and stands at MWC (currently the trend is falling under broad "cloud" marketing), there have been plenty of companies here ready to discuss how they're helping to shift networking functions out of bespoke network boxes and into data centers. (See V Is for Virtualization.)
And it's happening quickly. "The network blinked, and functions are starting to move into the data center. It's happening faster than I thought it would," noted Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Jim Hodges, one of the few individuals wandering the show floor and still capable of cogent thought on day four of the event.
Of the major systems vendors, the company looking like it's leading the way currently is NEC Corp., with its combination of IT and telecom capabilities giving it an edge, but all of the majors are putting their R&D teams on the case. Of the specialist systems firms, the likes of Acme Packet Inc., F5 Networks Inc., Genband Inc., Metaswitch Networks, RadiSys Corp. and Tekelec (among others) are already some of the way down the NFV road.
As 2013 progresses, we can expect to hear a lot more about this trend, and Light Reading will be striving to figure out which companies have a credible position in terms of meeting any potential needs of the network operators.
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading