In the past few years, we have seen a revolution on how IT systems are built and deployed. Enterprise and consumer software systems were completely re-designed to abstract its dependency on the hardware infrastructure, run in the cloud, and be accessed through mobile devices over the Internet.
The benefits are too clear to ignore and the Telecom industry is going in the same direction, with software-centric deployments using Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) on high-volume, standard hardware platforms.
In the past, most communications network functions (e.g. VoIP switches, Session Border Controllers, firewalls, media servers, deep packet inspection, etc.) were implemented as appliances, with tight integration between proprietary hardware and software from a single vendor. Scaling services involved deploying additional hardware. Implementing redundancy required duplicating infrastructures.
Recent advances in IT technology, including faster general-purpose processors capable of processing demanding real-time tasks (such as media transcoding, for example), and advances in software (e.g. virtualization technology) makes it possible to quickly deploy (minutes, not months) software components that can be made available to users to support increasing demand or to offer new services.
NFV is an architecture that breaks the various network functions into modules so that they can be virtualized. Those network functions run as independent software components without requiring awareness of the underlying physical infrastructure and without proprietary dependencies on the other network functions.
In order to validate the benefits of NFV, we have built a fully functional multi-point conferencing system and deployed it in the cloud.
Direct Cost and Maintenance Efficiencies
- Lower acquisition costs
- Lower maintenance costs
Improved Operational Efficiency
- Optimal scaling
- Uniformity of physical network platform
- Inexpensive failure tolerance
- Hardware sharing
Minimization of Innovation Cycle
- Faster development cycles
- Leverage of public infrastructure
- Easier experimentation
The implications are significant not only for the Mobile and Telecom Operators, but also for Over-the-Top (OTT) Communication Providers, who will feel the competitive pressure to offer integrated services and can benefit from the unbundling of integrated systems previously accessible only to large operators.
The architecture and the results we observed attest the benefits of NFV and are detailed in the white paper: “Attesting to the Benefits of NFV – Building integrated cloud-based communication services“.