VMware today made its major play to be the telco infrastructure for edge computing, announcing vCloud NFV-OpenStack Edition 3.0, a carrier platform that targets 5G and distributed computing environments as part of a multicloud telco network that it is calling the Virtual Cloud Network.
Weeks after rolling out the latest version of VMware Integrated OpenStack-Carrier Edge (VIO 5.0), VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW) used the 5G World event in London to present the bigger package, which it says includes new networking features aimed at the carrier market as well as network performance improvements and intent-based service assurance. One key feature is support for VMware NSX-T Data Center, adding DPDK-based data plane acceleration to dramatically reduce processing requirements for the edge environments while maintaining existing NFVi benefits including secure multi-tenancy.
Multiple carriers including NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT), Telia and Telefónica have been beta-testing the new NSX Managed Virtual Distributed Switch in its Enhanced Data Path mode since January, says Gabriele Di Piazza, vice president of products and solutions, Telco NFV Business Unit, VMware. Telia and VMware have also been collaborating on an architecture plan they will release in a white paper today, can be downloaded here. In an interview, he tells Light Reading this third edition of VMware's NFV capabilities "is not just another new number with a package of features."
Instead, Di Piazza says, VMware has been working with its carrier customers, particularly Telia, to determine the best architecture to support 5G and distributed computing that takes into account every piece of the multicloud system, from the core to whatever the edge winds up being, including home and enterprise.
"Edge is one of the manifestations of cloud -- we like to call this the virtual cloud network and it includes edge as well as private data center in the core but also public cloud and what is happening in the branches," Di Piazza says. "So we actually see the world evolving into a world of multicloud. We believe the challenges are around how do we automate and look at common infrastructure and common policy in networking in a common overlay across private, public, edge and branch."
The challenges -- which VMware sees as opportunities, he adds, -- are around automation, management, policy, security and, to some extent, footprint and performance on the edge, where latency, high throughput and the ability to support an exploding number of devices are key. Telcos may be moving their clouds from the core to the edge of the networks, but enterprises are similarly starting to look at mini and micro data centers, Di Piazza says.
"I do think this is a key aspect of where the telcos really need to play because there is an opportunity for them to launch a wealth of new services," he comments. "I think this is a world where we see a collaboration and an ecosystem forming between the megaclouds and IT cloud environment and telco clouds. Telcos need to look at this in a forward-looking way; it's an opportunity for them."
Other new capabilities include intent-based service assurance, native support for the Container Networking Interface, and greater resiliency via fast-link failure detection and extended security, performance and policy management, as well as support for network slicing. VMware is also drawing heavily on its active role in Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) and also Open Source MANO Community (OSM) to bring open source automation features into play.
Heavy Reading Principal Analyst Roz Roseboro says VMware is "addressing all the right issues," even if the multicloud future the company sees is a bit distant.
"They seem to get it," she says in an interview. "I'd say VMware is doing a good job of extending their IT heritage into telco. The multicloud approach -- having the same environment across domains -- isn't something that is going to happen immediately. I think it's a nice thing to enable, but I don't know how relevant it's going to be to telcos immediately because they aren't collapsing all those organizations."
What VMware may succeed in doing is laying the groundwork for that more integrated cloud future, Roseboro adds. The same thing may be true for VMware's support of containers at the edge: Network operators would like to see VNFs decomposed, to run in lighter weight containers at the edge, but "very few VNFs are containerized right now," she comments.
Di Piazza says VMware is pushing forward on these fronts, including offering intent-based service assurance and its shrink-wrapped OpenStack-in-a-box for the edge, because it sees not only greater efficiencies and lower latencies with edge compute but also a richer array of service opportunities.
Analyst Roseboro says putting more intelligence into service assurance is "going to be an important part of the process as carriers automate. Service providers don't trust all the automation tools so being able to verify that things are happening as they were intended to is going to be important," she comments. The near-term challenge for that capability will be making it work in a multivendor environment that isn't just VMware-based.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading