As the demand on mobile networks continues to increase, operators have to find new solutions to make their networks more flexible when the load on their infrastructure fluctuates. Just as other network infrastructure is starting to use software to compensate for the limitations of the hardware, the Alcatel-Lucent (News - Alert) NFV (Network Functions Virtualization) technology is doing the same for operators wanting to virtualize their mobile networks so they can reduce their reliance on propriety hardware.
The company's NFV technology portfolio includes, a vEPC (virtualized Evolved Packet Core), a vIMS (IP Multimedia Subsystem (News - Alert)) platform and virtualized RAN (Radio Access Network) products, which will provide operators with lower cost and faster deployment of new services.
To power its CloudBand solution Alcatel-Lucent is relying on Red Hat (News - Alert)'s OpenStack platform so it can expand its Software Defined Networking (SDN) and NFV efforts. According to the company, it is virtualizing most of its mobile networking portfolio, including IMS, EPC and some parts of the RAN.
The OpenStack platform will provide computer resource management on the cloud so virtual machines on the servers can be created and managed. As operators see the benefits of this technology with increased flexibility and support for capacity on demand for delivering new solutions to consumers, adoption of cloud will continue to increase in the industry. This includes increased speed of time to market because it minimizes the typical network operators cycle of innovation due to hardware functionalities. The software-based developments reduces the time and cost of the maturation cycle.
The NFV functions also offers operators the ability to reduce costs and lower power consumption by consolidating equipment and taking advantage of the economies of scale in the IT industry. Additional benefits of this platform include:
- Availability of network appliance multi-version and multi-tenancy, which allows use of a single platform for different applications, users and tenants. This allows network operators to share resources across services and across different customer bases.
- Targeted service introduction based on geography or customer sets is possible. Services can be rapidly scaled up/down as required.
- Enables a wide variety of eco-systems and encourages openness. It opens the virtual appliance market to pure software entrants, small players and academia, encouraging more innovation to bring new services and new revenue streams quickly at much lower risk.
In order to capitalize on the benefits of this technology some technical challenges have to be addressed, which include: achieving high performance virtualized network appliances; achieving co-existence with bespoke hardware based network platforms; managing and orchestrating many virtual network appliances; ensuring the appropriate level of resilience to hardware and software failures; and integrating multiple virtual appliances from different vendors.
Edited by Cassandra Tucker