Network Infrastructure

Software Eats the Carrier Network

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  September 03, 2013

Marc Andreessen famously commented that software is eating the world. Boy, was he right.

Software already has chomped its way through many of the applications and devices on the table. Next on the menu: communications network functionality.

Better known as network functions virtualization, or NFV, the idea here is to implement network elements and applications as sets of virtual machines, storage devices and associated network configurations, as explained by Alcatel-Lucent’s (News - Alert) website.

“This creates an infrastructure that can be shared across all applications,” the ALU sites on NFV and its CloudBand solution explain. “The network infrastructure becomes a platform that simplifies and accelerates the service provider’s operations and service offerings.”

The concept of NFV, around which the European Telecommunications Standards Institute has been doing standards work, closely relates to and borrows from what’s already happening in cloud communications in an effort to make networks more flexible – or elastic – to help network operators like the telcos reduce costs, improve scalability, and allow for faster new product time to market.

“The move to a software-based service infrastructure creates tremendous opportunities and challenges for service providers as they look to manage this transition and optimize their networks for growth,” said Chris Koeneman, vice president of worldwide sales and marketing for ADTRAN's (News - Alert) Bluesocket Business Division.

Despite any challenges there might be, however, Dave Ashby, Metaswitch’s vice president of Asia Pacific sales, believes NRV and software-defined networking – which he described as two key themes in the rapid movement toward software-centricity – “will define the industry for the remainder of this decade.”

He said just that this summer at the opening of CommunicAsia (News - Alert), at which Metaswitch discussed and demonstrated of an open source IMS core initiative called Project Clearwater; Metaswitch’s Active PCE Controller for Carrier SDN; an NFV-based session border controller called Perimeta; and Metaswitch solutions for hosted business services, UC and network management.

Tom Schroer, director of service provider marketing at Dialogic (News - Alert), said his company too has been working on NFV solutions to give network operators elasticity and the ability to spin services up and down at will.

Dialogic recently started a couple of high-profile trials on this involving the BorderNet virtual SBC. The new solution, he said, makes the implementation of SBC fast. In the past deployments of this kind of solution required site prep, installation, etc. With virtualization, however, users just load the software on the server and it’s ready for configuration and implementation, he explained.

Edited by Alisen Downey