Broadcom and Huawei Technologies will be among the growing number of vendors bringing network-function virtualization offerings to the Mobile World Congress 2014 show this week.
Broadcom will demonstrate a new platform designed to enable system makers and third-party vendors to create virtualized network function applications that can migrate across multiple system-on-a-chip (SoC) platforms, bringing greater flexibility and cost-effectiveness to network operators and service providers who are navigating an increasingly cloud-based environment.
For their part, Huawei officials at the show will talk about its Cloud Edge solution for deploying network-function virtualization (NFV) capabilities on mobile broadband networks.
NFV, a close relative of software-defined networks (SDNs), will be in the spotlight during Mobile World Congress, which runs in Barcelona, Spain, started Feb. 24. Alcatel-Lucent, Dell, Red Hat, Radisys, IneoQuest and others will be showing off NFV solutions or talking about their efforts in the space. In addition, Hewlett-Packard and Intel subsidiary Wind River announced this month that the two companies are working together to create carrier-grade servers that can help telecoms handle the demands from NFV and the Internet of things.
The Wind River partnership news comes after HP created a specific business unit for NFV, which will be headed by Bethany Mayer, senior vice president and general manager of HP's networking division.
Service providers and network operators are turning to NFV as a way to keep up with the rapid and changing demands brought on by such trends as mobile computing and the cloud, and in the face of rising competition from such over-the-top (OTT) threats as Google and Skype.
Over the years, network operators have built up legacy infrastructures that are unwieldy, based on expensive proprietary hardware and time-consuming to program, leading to long service development cycles. Web companies like Google, unhampered by years of legacy infrastructures, have created networks that can respond rapidly to the changing demands from increasing mobile users, putting pressure on the traditional telecoms.
A specifications group within the European Telecommunications Standards Institute since 2012 has released a number of papers about NFV, including definitions and use cases. Through NFV, vendors can virtualize such network functions as firewalls, load balancing and intrusion-detection systems, removing them from complex hardware and increasing the programmability, flexibility and automation of the network.
Broadcom has been aggressive in growing its NFV capabilities. The chip vendor in October 2013 announced that it was working with ARM to develop server-class, 64-bit SoCs that will be optimized for NFV that will begin shipping in volume in 2015.
At Mobile World Congress, Broadcom will showcase its NFV solution that officials said will enable network operators to migrate their virtual functions between disparate platforms based on offerings from different vendors. Broadcom's Open NFV platform is leveraging open-source components such as Linux, KVM virtualization and Open Virtual Switch to create a platform that is not reliant on a single chip architecture. The result is that vendors can create NFV applications that are highly portable from one platform to another.
"Customers have been asking for an ISA-independent solution to migrate virtual functions across diverse platforms, something they didn't previously have," Ron Jankov, senior vice president and general manager of processors and wireless infrastructure at Broadcom, said in a statement. "Broadcom's partnership with ARM and other third party vendors helps advance our NFV goals and meet the workload flexibility and scalability needs of our customers, while maintaining our commitment to a truly open ecosystem."
Huawei's Cloud Edge solution leverages a cloud-based mobile broadband network architecture to help organizations automate management of the entire network, according to company officials. It builds on Huawei's SingleEPC offering for evolved packet core operators and includes capabilities for virtual evolved packet core (vEPC), virtualized multi-service engine (vMSE), and cloud management and orchestration.
The solution will enable network operators and service providers to grow their mobile broadband opportunities, simplify and reduce the costs of network operations, and more quickly bring out services, such as machine-to-machine applications and mobile video, Huawei officials said.
Cloud Edge is part of Huawei's larger softCom efforts to bring cloud, NFV and SDN solutions to telecoms over the next 10 years. The softCom strategy is designed to enable network operators to leverage the hardware and software they already have in their networks while implementing new innovations.
Huawei officials said the company and telecoms will further discuss Cloud Edge at Mobile World Congress.