The two companies are combining forces to further develop NSN's Liquid Applications strategy, which was announced earlier this year at Mobile World Congress. The basic aim is to enable mobile operators to use computing power at mobile base stations to store and more quickly deliver multimedia content and applications to smartphone users. Central to that approach is NSN's Radio Applications Cloud Server (RACS), which sits at the edge of the mobile network. (See NSN: Understanding Liquid Applications.)
Intel is going to help NSN develop "a mobile edge computing ecosystem, focusing on over-the-top (OTT) content providers, independent software vendors (ISV) and application service providers (ASP)." They will also "explore new business models between mobile operators and other ecosystem players, facilitating engagements with the purpose of delivering a superior and profitable customer experience."
Lots of nice buzz words in there, but at the heart of the current relationship is Intel's Crystal Forest Platform, the IT core at the heart of NSN's Radio Applications Cloud Server. The partners explain that the Crystal Forest Platform was "developed for the communications infrastructure market … the small footprint and exceptional energy efficiency of the platform support integration into non-standard environments and small form factor mobile base stations, while also providing the performance needed to handle more extensive localized processing."
This is real Service Provider Information Technology (SPIT) in action: The combination of traditional IT developments and telecom infrastructure know-how is very powerful and a great example of how the communications networking industry needs to develop. (See The SPIT Manifesto 2.0.)
But where it gets really interesting is in the potential for further collaboration around network functions virtualization (NFV).
NSN has long been talking about its "liquid" approach to networking, involving the pooling of resources, especially around radio access network (RAN) capabilities. (See NSN Hangs Its Future on the Liquid Net.)
Now, Intel has emerged as one of the key technology enablers in NFV. It is working closely with a number of major telecom vendors and integrators active in NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) and also recently announced a very interesting acquisition in the form of Aepona, which for years has been developing APIs that enable operators to open up their assets and capabilities to third-party developers and OTT applications specialists. (See Intel Adds to Its SDN Arsenal, Intel Intros SDN/NFV Architectures and Packet Core Looks 'Ripe' for Virtualization.)
NSN, which is showing signs of financial recovery and increasing its 4G market share, and Intel could (and I stress "could") create a powerful partnership in breaking new ground in 4G and beyond.
This is a collaboration to watch.
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading