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Alcatel-Lucent's NFV Solutions Accelerating Mobile Networks Move to the Cloud

There are few topics that will be hotter at the annual Mobile World Congress (News - Alert) (MWC) gathering next week in Barcelona than Network Functions Virtualization (NFV).

The realities are the explosion of data inundating wireless networks will only pick up steam. Customers want user experiences that equal or surpass those on other screens (PCs and TVs).  Service providers are seeking new service opportunities and seamless integration of mobile, fixed wireless and landline networks converge as a means to keep customers engaged for prolonged periods on their “E”vironments.  NFV clearly has emerged as a critical piece of the puzzle for meeting the needs of both parties. 

In fact, this need it is why the activities of ETSI (News - Alert) regarding NFV, with representatives of all of the major service providers and their vendors to define a framework for the future of networking that is more efficient, effective, secure and agile to rapidly changing market needs has become so important.

With this as backdrop, Alcatel-Lucent (ALU) will be highlighting its cloud-enabled NFV roadmap at MWC. On display will be three important pillars for service providers:

Alcatel-Lucent’s network functions virtualization (NFV) portfolio aligns with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) NFV vision. It is already working with 20 service providers as they begin to leverage NFV in their networks.

At MWC, Alcatel-Lucent and China Mobile are co-demonstrating voice and video delivered over a virtualized proof of concept LTE RAN Baseband Unit (BBU) and virtualized evolved packet core (vEPC) on-boarded to the cloud by CloudBand 2.0 – the company’s second generation NFV platform.

At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Alcatel-Lucent’s virtualization portfolio will be on display in its booth 3K10 in Hall 3.

The benefits of NFV

As ALU explains, NFV appeals to mobile service providers because it, “Allows them to innovate more easily while providing the best return on their investments in an all-IP network infrastructure such as LTE. It enables network automation and efficient use of resources for rapid scaling up and down of services. It will optimize delivery of services such as voice over LTE (VoLTE), Web real time communications (Web RTC), secure mobile communications for enterprises and machine-to-machine (M2M) communications.”

ALU has announced a carrier-grade virtualized mobile portfolio that is hardware independent – enabling the leveraging of industry initiatives such as OpenStack, to operate with NFV platforms including management, orchestration, infrastructure and networking elements.

The virtualized portfolio includes:

·A virtualized Evolved Packet Core (vEPC). This automates the authentication and management of subscribers and the services they access, as well as the creation of and connectivity to services within the operator’s network and to the wider Internet on a massive scale, with the quality and performance subscribers demand. Alcatel-Lucent’s vEPC leverages a software base that has been proven in the networks of the world’s largest mobile network operators. The company is currently conducting five customer trials using the vEPC.

·Virtualized IMS (vIMS) solution.  A cloud communications platform for delivering a rich portfolio of multimedia services over IP networks. Alcatel-Lucent’s vIMS embraces new open cloud technologies whilst retaining the high performance leveraged from being operational at scale in the largest communication networks with 100% availability. Alcatel-Lucent’s vIMS is already being deployed within customer networks and the company is engaged in eight vIMS cloud customer trials.

·Virtualized RAN portfolio. This encompasses a virtualized 3G Radio Network Controller (RNC) and virtualized proof of concept for LTE and LTE-Advanced Radio Access Networks. The LTE components leverage Alcatel-Lucent’s LTE software deployed in eight of the top ten mobile operator networks and advanced wireless algorithms from Bell Labs (News - Alert).

Source (News - Alert): Alcatel-Lucent

To leverage cloud efficiencies the functional software must be on-boarded, managed, orchestrated and optimized within the cloud network. Alcatel-Lucent’s CloudBand 2.0 is an example of an integrated NFV Platform. The company has been using CloudBand at its Cloud Innovation Centre lab in Naperville, U.S., to onboard and manage its virtualized applications. The 2.0 version has been expanded to support greater network control, broader open industry standard technologies, and virtualized network functions. It also integrates the Virtual Service Platform (VSP) from Alcatel-Lucent’s SDN venture, Nuage Networks. Software defined networking (SDN) solutions from Nuage Networks deliver highly automated, programmable and responsive networks in support of IT and telecommunications applications for the cloud era.

As Phil Tilly, senior director of Alcatel-Lucent’s IP routing and transport activities explained to TMCnet, “NFV is a journey for service providers and their vendors. It is the future for making networks for manageable and flexible. It is a journey where we all need to work together to ensure heterogeneous networks interoperate seamlessly along with delivery on all of the promise which is why the ETSI work is so critical.”

The message here is that NFV is more than promises, it is on the way.  For instance, ALU is currently delivering on three CloudBand NFV customer contracts and 10 trials. In addition, over 20 trials of the Nuage Networks SDN solution are underway and the company has four contracts.

ALU is committed to accelerating industry development of NFV, both through active participation in the ETSI NFV advisory board, as well as with the formation of the CloudBand Ecosystem Program. Plus, as part of this Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform will be part of Alcatel-Lucent’s CloudBand NFV Platform.

Marcus Weldon, corporate chief technology officer of Alcatel-Lucent and Bell Labs noted that:  “Each mobile operator will have different priorities and want to take their own specific path to NFV, based on their business priorities and the state of their network and operations readiness. Building on our strong IP foundation, we have pioneered an open SDN and NFV architecture that combines the best of IP with the best of IT, to create a truly carrier-grade cloud network solution. Our accelerated investments in virtualized telecom applications, our CloudBand 2.0 platform and our Nuage Networks SDN venture are clear proof points that we have all the elements to help operators create an open agile, efficient cloud environment.”

While the announcements are being made to coincide with MWC, this is not just about mobile but is also about how NFV is going to help service providers with fixed-line/mobile convergence.  Service providers around the world are looking to create seamless ecosystems that customers never leave. NFV, which will also operators to use one user profile regardless of how they access a network, is a critical piece of the puzzle to entice users to use evolving quadruple play capabilities.

If you can’t make it to Barcelona, more information about ALU’s approach to cloud-enabled NFV is available.  As Tilly said, “It is going to take a lot of complicated work to make the future of networking simpler, but this is a journey to which the industry is committed and accelerating it is something that is in everyone’s best interests.”

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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