This year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will not only provide a view of how individual vendors are bringing network functions virtualization (NFV) to market, but also reveal a tempting glimpse of the multi-vendor efforts that are advancing the NFV cause. (See Vendors Catch NFV Fever.)
Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and Red Hat Inc. (NYSE: RHT) will be demonstrating the virtual Evolved Packet Core (EPC) that is at the heart of their European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) -approved NFV proof of concept (PoC) efforts.
RAD Data Communications Ltd. , meanwhile, is showing off its Distributed NFV capabilities, which are part of an ETSI NFV PoC sponsored by CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL), and Dell Technologies (Nasdaq: DELL) will be teaming with Red Hat on one demo and providing some glimpses into what its research is doing as part of the CloudNFV consortium, also part of an ETSI NFV PoC sponsored by Sprint Corp. (NYSE: S) and Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF). (See Intel, Cyan to Demo Virtual EPC at MWC and RAD Preps NFV Demo at MWC.)
The exciting thing about the virtual EPC for wireless operators, including the PoC's sponsors, Telefonica and Sprint, is that it holds the promise of allowing wireless network expansion without the time, trouble and expense of today's hardware, says Recep Ozdag, director of solutions marketing for NFV/software-defined networking (SDN) at Cyan. So, instead of a months-long process, "they can take about 15 minutes to instantiate this virtual EPC," he says.
What the multi-vendor demo being hosted in the Intel exhibit will add, however, is the end-to-end orchestration of the process, to be handled by Cyan's Blue Planet. It will show how an operator can address existing network resources, including packet-optical transport for mobile backhaul, Carrier Ethernet network interface devices and eNodeB deployments in a process that uses vEPC to turn up resources to handle traffic congestion or sudden spikes.
That's key, says Ozdag, because wireless operators are looking for the migration strategies to NFV that let them take advantage of what virtualization can add more quickly, using resources they already have.
Cyan's goal is to draw attention to Blue Planet's ability to orchestrate multiple vendors' gear, says Joe Cumello, Cyan's chief marketing officer, and to emphasize the real-world potential of the vEPC, which is already in lab trials with Tier 1 operators.
RAD has been talking about distributed NFV for months now, making the case that it makes little sense to centralize some functions that can be virtualized on commercial off-the-shelf hardware on the customer premises. RAD will be showing off that capability at MWC, even as it continues to work on an ETSI NFV PoC sponsored by CenturyLink and supported by Cyan, Certes and Fortinet Inc. .
This NFV PoC uses the Cyan orchestrator to manage a network that includes both physical and virtual components. RAD is providing a physical network interface device that includes built-in compute capacity onto which virtual FortiGate software and Certes virtual encryptors are deployed, for a wide range of security services, including firewall, threat management, dynamic routing protocols, encryption/decryption and more.
Dell and CloudNFV
Dell has taken over as the lead player in the CloudNFV consortium and while its NFV activities at MWC will center more on a Dell-Red Hat hookup, there will be discussion about what lies ahead for this group of vendors, which created the first PoC to be approved by ETSI and, in addition, will be presenting as a Catalyst project at the upcoming TM Forum Live event in Nice. (See CloudNFV Moves Quickly to Product Stage.)
Wenjing Chu, distinguished engineer and CTO in Mobility & Net Virtualization at Dell, tells Light Reading the group is moving quickly and looking at products in the near-term in addition to its demonstrations. There won't be announcements at MWC, but they are on the horizon and it will be a topic of discussion in Barcelona.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading