Network Functions Virtualization is an ETSI architectural framework which includes virtualization, orchestration, and infrastructure management. This enables that making networks more efficient and enabling new business cases that were not previously viable. One example of this is Boingo Wireless. At Boingo Wireless, they have 100's of sites deployed across the whole world and having a specific hardware plans on each of these is not viable. What they did was that they went with virtualized infrastructure with Procera providing virtualized network functions. Virtualization enabled Boingo Wireless to be very agile and flexible in testing new business ideas. NFV will allow best-in-breed software providers to displace incumbent vendors with specific hardware offerings leading to a new service offerings and efficient business cases. By using Procera's NFV, operators will gain the possibility to be agile and flexible in new service creation.
In a nutshell, Network Functions Virtualization is the notion of being able to take your existing network functions for an operator, load balancing, routing, switching, DPI, and convert those from being stand-alone, purpose-built appliances to applications that run inside virtual machines within your network. For operators, this is immensely valuable because it allows them to not only cut their costs associated with capital expenditures and operating expenses, but allows them to be more agile in delivering services to their customers, which is really what it's about for the operator, enhancing their subscriber experience. Virtualization creates the opportunity for them to do that. At Mobile World Congress this year, we're highlighting two accomplishments in the NFV space. The first is our ability to take our PacketLogic technology and deploy that on a COTS server, running at line rate speeds up to 150 gigabits per second. That came as a part of our collaboration with Intel, and so if you come visit our booth, you'll be able to discover how we were able to accomplish that and visit with the Intel teams themselves. The second thing that we're focusing on this year for NFV is our new relationship with Dell. We want to give our customers a choice in buying our technology, where they can either buy our existing platforms in the form of hardware that they've done before, or now, if they're migrating to Network Functions Virtualization, they can leverage Dell technology to buy their platforms and run our PacketLogic software on them. These are all part of a strategy for Procera to make NFV real for our customer and allow them to make real choices in how they deliver our Packet technology within their infrastructure. There are three fundamental benefits that the operators get from Network Functions Virtualization. The first is capital expenditure reduction. By being able to take your network functions and transform them to applications running on COTS server technology, operators are able to drive down the cost of building out their network infrastructure. The second benefit for operators is around operations expense reduction. That comes in the form of being able to automate the provisioning and management life cycle of your services, and therefore, allowing you to drop the operational overhead and burdens associated with managing those services themselves. Finally, for the operators, the primary benefit is service agility. In other words, if you think about the traditional methodology for operators, it may take nine plus months for them to roll out a service. With NFV, they're able to trial services very rapidly, construct them, and modify those services on the fly, leveraging automation technology. These are key benefits for operators because it creates an environment where they're able to reduce their cost of expenditures while becoming more agile and delivering services to their customers.
This year’s MWC was not a “revolutionary” year, but as with every show, there are some important nuggets to take away.
NFV starts to transition in the Hype Cycle: Gartner has a Hype Cycle methodology that they use to talk about how new technologies hit the market. I saw definite signs at MWC that NFV might be entering the Slope of Enlightenment – the phase when examples of real use cases and how the technology can benefit customers start to appear. More operators are putting significant resources behind taking ETSI POCs and trying to turn them into real deployments. There are customers that have installed virtualization already (hey, we even announced one! - Procera Networks Delivers NFV solutions for Boingo Wireless). Although it can be argued that most of these deployments are not “fully orchestrated NFV” – I hope people realize that they have to be orchestrated at least a little bit to work…right? Maybe we are not at nirvana yet, but it WILL happen.
IoT is going to happen: There were so many new IoT and wearables shown off at MWC that you have to believe that some of them will take off. ATT (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJLM1mmgS8g) , Cisco and Intel (http://www.computerweekly.com/news/2240241602/Mobile-World-Congress-Cisco-Deutsche-Telekom-and-Intel-target-IoT-startups), and thousands of companies were all talking about their offerings. Not talked about much is the impact that potentially quadrupling the number of devices that are connected to the Internet – whether directly to through mobile or wi-fi connections or through a Bluetooth connection to another device - would have on network operators. Although most IoT devices are not likely to be streaming high bandwidth video, they will dramatically increase the “background noise” on the Internet (a pet topic of mine) by phoning home to their cloud-based repositories. Operators need to start factoring this into their capacity planning and ensuring that they can manage the flood of new devices that will further increase their network usage, while still delivering a good experience to their subscribers.
Network Neutrality is getting interesting: The gauntlet has been thrown down in the US, Europe appears ready to unveil their next version, and iiNet announced zero-rated Netflix (http://www.cnet.com/au/news/iinet-unmetered-netflix-streaming-game-changer/). Google’s MVNO offering could be a game changer, or could be nothing. I can’t help but think that maybe we are looking at the problem in the wrong way, but what is critical going forward is that the Subscriber Experience is maintained. This is an important topic, and the discussion is just beginning. No matter what is decided, broadband networks need to deliver the service that they promise to consumers, and I think we need a better metric than just speed – which is advertised and not always delivered.
See what other members had to say while at MWC:
And that’s a wrap on a successful MWC 2015 for Procera Networks!
"Cam is the Vice President of Global Marketing at Sandvine and responsible for Sandvine's overall global marketing. He is an avid follower of and the author of the Global Internet Phenomena report on network trends. He also loves football (the real kind played with a round ball) as well as an active blogger for Sandvine on a wide range of technology and business issues.
Areas of expertise: Internet trends, virtualization, analytics, network optimization, enterprise services