China Unicom Transforms Its Networks Into a '3-Layer Decoupled Architecture'
Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) has become a hot topic in both the IT and CT industries. By using virtualization technology to decouple dedicated hardware from software, NFV helps carriers transition their networks into the three-layer decoupled architecture that runs applications, CloudOS and COTS hardware more efficiently than any legacy network. The architecture allows each layer to evolve independently. The CloudOS uses open-source OpenStack software, which enables carriers to deploy different applications on COTS hardware that provides countless network functions.
China Unicom is a key contributor to the development of the NFV network architecture. China Unicom decided on the vEPC to serve as the key component of their newly constructed NB-IoT network. At the beginning of this year, China Unicom organized major vendors including Huawei, Ericsson, Nokia, and HPE, to test the interoperability between their decoupled layers. Each layer was configured with devices from different vendors, forming more than 10 device combinations. The test fully examined the maturity of three-layer decoupling and the functions as well as integration capabilities of each vendor's software, hardware, vEPC, and MANO. A compatibility test was conducted between Huawei's CloudOS and COTS servers from Inspur, Lenovo, ZTE, Dell, and H3C. Additionally, an interoperability test was carried out between Huawei's CloudOS and Nokia's and Ericsson's vEPCs/MANOs, and between Huawei's vEPC/MANO and Nokia's, Ericsson's, and HPE's CloudOSs.
According to China Unicom's requirements, the Network Technology Research Institute established overall technical requirements, specifications, and acceptance standards. Four test sites were established in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Zhengzhou. Beijing focused on hardware-software decoupling and MANO function tests. Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Zhengzhou focused on interoperability tests between multi-vendor NFVIs, MANOs, and VNFs.
Taking advantage of E2E CT&IT technical strength, extensive experience in multi-vendor integration, and the Open Labs, Huawei pre-validated each multi-vendor interoperability service scenario. Huawei organized a delivery team made up of experts with integration service, core network, IT, software, hardware, and project management backgrounds. As a strong, dedicated team, Huawei was first to deliver the hardware to the agreed upon sites, connect vEPC calls, and complete all functional tests.
- At the Shanghai site, Huawei served as the prime system integrator, and tested the interoperability between their NFVI and Nokia's vEPC and MANO. Working with the Nokia team, Huawei well managed the delivery plans, risks, information, communication, and personnel collaboration. It took only eight days for them to finish installing and commissioning the hardware and CloudOS. On April 10, Huawei first connected vEPC calls. Huawei identified more than 20 issues which occurred during the tests. Huawei was first to validate the function and stability of the virtualization layer, vEPC, and MANO at the Shanghai site. Huawei tested their proprietary vEPC and MANO with Nokia's NFVI, connected vEPC calls within only three days, and completed all test cases within two weeks.
- At the Guangzhou site, Huawei provided the vEPC, MANO, and E9000, and HPE provided the CloudOS. Huawei was first to deliver hardware, connect vEPC calls, and complete functional tests.
- At the Beijing site, Huawei took the lead in testing compatibility between their proprietary CloudOS and the COTS servers from Inspur, Lenovo, ZTE, Dell, and H3C. Huawei also tested the interoperability between Huawei's vEPC/MANO and Ericsson's NFVI, and vice versa. During the tests, Huawei and Ericsson pre-identified interface differences, and analyzed key technical NFV risks. Both parties collaborated to identify and mitigate the risks, and fully verified the commercial use of three-layer decoupling. Additionally, Huawei was first to connect vEPC calls and complete the final tests at the Beijing site.
The success of NFV three-layer decoupling tests was China Unicom's green light to the construction of its commercial-use NB-IoT network. Huawei, with its strong technical strength and multi-vendor integration capabilities, will continuously help China Unicom to transform its networks, commercialize the future-oriented NFV network architecture, and develop an NFV ecosystem.
This article was produced by Huawei Technologies.