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Demos at this year's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona suggest production-grade NFV is here

Demos at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona suggest production-grade NFV is here

NFV was unveiled at last year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, and was rapidly heralded as the next-big-thing for carrier networking. This year, multiple pledges have been made by exhibitors to demonstrate the power of an NFV-enabled architecture, with showcases expected to run all week by some of the industry’s largest players, which aim to show the tech’s move towards commercial readiness.

Starting with Telefónica, which announced it is demonstrating a fully virtualized network live at the show, in collaboration with Alcatel-Lucent and HP. The demonstration focused on live LTE video streaming and calling services on a fully virtualized network stack, including a vRAN, vCDN, vEPC and vIMS.

The Spanish telco has been public in declaring its intentions to move to a fully virtualized architecture, in full, as soon as possible. Its latest announcement illustrates the network transformation it is undertaking by utilising unified communications architectures, cloud computing and virtualization initiatives.

According to a statement released by the telco, it “has a vision of a common infrastructure to serve both Telco and Service Platforms requirements (VNFs – Virtual Network Functions) and that this common infrastructure will be cloud-based”.

In his keynote talk at MWC, Telefónica chairman César Alierta alluded to the massive transformation being undertaken at the Spanish telecoms incumbent. “Ultra-broadband networks, fostered by huge investments, are being deployed across geographies by operators, networks that let everyone and everything be connected, generating immense opportunities for all,” he said.

Speaking of vRAN, China Mobile has been heavily involved with Alcatel-Lucent in developing the technology, which aims to virtualize baseband units onto general purpose Intel servers. At last year’s show, the telco giant showcased the latest developments of the Cloud-RAN program, a predecessor to vRAN.

Dr. Chih-Lin I, chief scientist at China Mobile Research Institute, believes the efficiency gains of NFV in the radio network are essential to the future development of the mobile industry.

“vRAN is a successful commercial instance of C-RAN,” she said. “Since CMRI introduced the C-RAN to the industry 5 years ago, we have been working closely with Alcatel-Lucent to develop innovative solutions towards greener and softer future radio access networks. Our joint work in NFV, and especially in this case on the vRAN, will help operators to smoothly evolve and meet growing customer demands with a more efficient and effective network structure.”

Meanwhile, in an exhibition hall far, far away, Juniper Networks and Amdocs have united to deliver live NFV showcase demonstrations of virtualized customer premises equipment (vCPE) in an enterprise environment.

The virtual function, vCPE, is being showcased this week as the two companies announce the availability of the solution which intends to integrate various virtualized routing and firewall services from Juniper, in-turn facilitating rapid carrier scale-out of enterprise-grade services. Juniper’s SDN offering, Contrail, is also involved to deliver management of cloud and NFV infrastructures. Amdocs is contributing its Network Cloud Service Orchestrator to help the provisioning of virtual and physical network functions, which the company claims will allow for one of the most commonly discussed benefits of NFV: user self-service.

“Service providers recognise the business value of software-powered service chaining as they seek to make their networks more dynamic and better able to adapt to rapid change,” said Gabriel Brown at Heavy Reading. “Virtual CPE is one of the primary use-cases for NFV and there is clear evidence that service providers will invest in the technology if they have the software solutions they need to achieve true service agility.”

Elsewhere in NFV-land, NEC today announced it will be working closely with NTT DoCoMo to deliver NFV solutions across the mobile operator’s commercial network. The virtualized evolved packet core is at the centre of the agreement, which aims to virtualize the primary functions of an LTE network. NEC will also be providing a VNF manager, which it claims will help orchestrate the provisioning of various functions in the vEPC.

Speaking of the partnership, NTT DoCoMo’s chief technology officer, Seizo Onoe, acknowledged the tremendous speed with which NFV has moved through development and into a viable commercial phase of existence.

“NFV, which has finally moved into its commercial phase, is no longer just a pie-in-the-sky idea,” he said. “Through multi-vendor initiatives with NEC and other leading vendors in the NFV domain, we look forward to putting NFV to practical use and thereby helping to accelerate the transition to a new era for mobile networks.”

Of course, these are just a few of the many demonstrations happening in the NFV space across the week at Mobile World Congress. Telecoms.com will be bringing you coverage of the biggest and best announcements at this year’s show across the week.

@BizCloud
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