NetNumber has developed an NFV-ready, multifunctional platform for mobile network signaling that, the company believes, is unique and setting the pace for the industry.
But the company, which has been around since 1999 and boasts more than 135 customers, knows that the rest of the signaling systems fraternity is heading in the same direction and will soon be offering a similar proposition.
What NetNumber Inc. offers is a single signaling control, policy enforcement and subscriber database management platform that supports all signaling protocols, including SS7/C7, DNS/ENUM, SIP for IMS and Diameter for LTE. The single interface is the unique part, according to the company's Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) Doug Ranalli.
These protocols are all traditionally siloed and managed with different control platforms, a scenario that he says won't fly in an NFV environment.
"Our carrier customers are all going to realize they need to support all four flavors of signaling control in their network for at least another 20 years," Ranalli tells Light Reading. "As they're moving forward, they can't just treat every piece of functionality as a silo, or they will end up with complicated, expensive networks. We are harbingers of a general industry trend."
NetNumber's platform, called Titan, integrates directly into the NFV service-orchestration layer. Ranalli likens it to the iPhone and its app stores -- all the apps make it valuable, but there's a common platform that enables all of them. "Every app can't have its own platform," he says, adding "it's equally ridiculous for a carrier to deploy 17 siloed signaling control platforms. It's enormously wasteful."
This becomes more important as operators deploy NFV, which entails virtualizing every function in the mobile core -- a task that's made much more complicated when the signaling and control layer is traditionally so siloed. Most of NetNumber's customer base, which includes big names such as Verizon Wireless , BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), are still in the early stages of exploring NFV, Ranalli says. (See NetNumber Joins ETSI NFV ISG and NetNumber Joins Intel's NFV Initiative.)
For example, Verizon Wireless still uses a hardware-supported version of Titan. It wants its data distributed across the network so it's close to the switching centers where it does business, Ranalli explains. It uses 45 Titan edge servers, but the network sees it as one logical platform. Titan services can be accessed anywhere, with a query back to the central point of provisioning.
Vodafone Germany is the one exception that has actually deployed Titan as a virtual network function, running across its VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) environment. Ranalli believes it's the only operator currently taking an NFV approach to its core network production, while other operators are still just talking about it. He expects that situation to soon change.
NetNumber CEO Brad Boston says it's also trialing a virtualized platform with go-to-market partners Genband Inc. and Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU). In 2015, the company will embed standardized OpenStack interfaces to scale Titan up or down and add apps as needed. (See Genband Starts NFV Push With Distributed SBC.)
"Instead of virtualizing functions, virtualizing the platforms is much simpler," Ranalli says. "It is eliminating chaos instead of virtualizing it."
So which other companies will likely be talking about the same kind of all-in-one virtualized platform in the near future? Oracle and F5 are key rivals, while the likes of Dialogic, Diametriq and Sonus Networks, as well as the major infrastructure vendors, are also players in the signaling systems market.
— Sarah Reedy, Senior Editor, Light Reading