Alcatel-Lucent, Telefonica Expand NFV Partnership

The Spanish telco will expand its testing of Alcatel-Lucent's virtual networking gear as part of its effort to use NFV in its environment.

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Alcatel-Lucent and Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica are expanding the work they're doing together in testing network-functions virtualization technologies for service providers.

Telefonica officials, who last year announced a project called Unica to virtualize its network infrastructure by using network-functions virtualization (NFV) technologies and cloud computing, already has tested Alcatel-Lucent's Virtualized Service Router in its NFV Reference Lab using the OpenMANO NFV orchestration stack. Eventually, the testing reached a 100 percent line-rate performance, which meant that data was transported with no losses. The companies said they will continue testing other parts of Alcatel-Lucent's NFV portfolio this year.

The latest agreement expands an original memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by the companies in February 2014. Under the original agreement, Telefonica used Alcatel-Lucent's CloudBand platform in its NFV efforts. According to officials with both firms, the companies, as part of the new MoU, will work to determine what needs to be done to enable mobile networks to handle the increasing demands being put on them by the growing number of mobile Internet users, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications and the burgeoning Internet of things (IoT).

NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) are being looked at by enterprises, service providers and telcos to help them build networks that are more programmable, dynamic, agile and affordable than the ones they're using now. NFV and SDN enable organizations to put the control plane and networking tasks into software and run them on commodity systems that are less expensive and less complex than traditional networking gear.

According to analysts at IHS Infonetics Research, 48 percent of carriers surveyed by the firm said they plan to evaluate NFV by the end of the year, while 35 percent will deploy it in 2015.

"Though we're still in the early stages of a long-term transition to NFV-SDN architected networks, many carriers will be moving from proof-of-concept tests and lab evaluations to commercial deployments of NFV in 2015," Michael Howard, senior research director for carrier networks at IHS, said in a statement when the report came out in June. "In fact, all major operators are either now deploying NFV or plan to within the next few years. Providers believe that NFV and its SDN … companion are a fundamental change in telecom network architecture that will deliver benefits in service agility and new revenue, operational efficiencies and [capital expense] savings."

Telefonica and its peers are aggressively pursuing NFV to enable them to more quickly address customer demands and spin out services. Through its Unica effort, Telefonica is looking to virtualize 30 percent of its new infrastructure by 2016. At the Mobile World Congress (MWC) show in February, Telefonica officials named Hewlett-Packard as the technology provider and systems integrator for Unica and said the telco will use HP's OpenNFV platform in the implementation.

Telefonica and Alcatel-Lucent also worked together at MWC, demonstrating Alcatel-Lucent's mobile solution as part of a fully virtualized network, according to officials. Going forward, Telefonica will test Alcatel-Lucent's Virtualized Service Router in a production environment, and also will check out other of the vendor's products, including the virtualized packet core, virtualized session border controller and virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE).