HP, NEC Collaborate on NFV for Service Providers

NEC will run its virtual network functions on HP's OpenNFV platform to offer a solution the vendors hope will accelerate carrier adoption of NFV.

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Hewlett-Packard and NEC will combine forces and technologies in an effort to help communications service providers more quickly and easily adopt network-functions virtualization.

The two companies announced their collaboration at the Mobile World Congress Shanghai show in China July 14, saying they will bring together HP's OpenNFV platform with NEC's virtual network functions and management systems. The goal is to offer communications service providers (CSPs) with a carrier-grade platform to run their network-functions virtualization (NFV) applications.

NFV technologies are designed to enable carriers to create more automated, dynamic, agile, scalable and affordable network infrastructures that can address the rapidly changing customer demands by more quickly spinning out new services, which also will open new revenue opportunities for the service providers. NFV essentially removes the various network functions—such as load balancing, intrusion detection and prevention, and routing—from complex and proprietary underlying networking gear and puts them into software that can run on less expensive commodity systems and are more easily programmable.

"CSPs are looking for ways to easily implement NFV technology," Werner Schaefer, vice president of NFV at HP, said in a statement. "Our collaboration with NEC is intended to create more open environments for customers, meeting their desire for faster deployment at a lower cost."

Telecommunications companies are embracing the idea of NFV, according to analysts with IHS Infonetics Research. In a survey published in June, the analysts found that 35 percent of carriers in the study said they are planning to deploy NFV in 2015, and 48 percent will evaluate NFV by the end of the year.

"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 survey was released. "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 (software-defined networking) companion are a fundamental change in telecom network architecture that will deliver benefits in service agility and new revenue, operational efficiencies and [capital expenditure] savings."

HP has aggressively pursued the NFV space, creating an NFV business unit last year and rolling out its OpenNFV, a collection of software and services to help carriers make the move to network virtualization. The giant tech vendor also has pursued partnerships with the likes of Spanish carrier Telefonica on its Unica initiative and Nokia Networks to build a cloud-based platform for telcos. In May, HP bought ConteXtream, which built a carrier-grade SDN fabric for NFV environments.

NEC also has been active in the network virtualization space. For example, the company earlier this year said it was partnering with Red Hat to create an NFV platform based on the OpenStack cloud orchestration technology. In June, NEC officials said the company was releasing new SDN-enabled switches for telcos and service providers.

In its partnership with HP, NEC will be offering its virtual network functions on HP's OpenNFV platform, which includes HP's Helion OpenStack Carrier Grade offering. Combined, the technologies will offer CSPs a pre-validated NFV solution, officials with the companies said.

The offering, which will be available later this year, will include HP servers, networking gear and storage products. In addition, HP and NEC will jointly develop an NFV reference platform to show how the combination of NEC's virtual network functions and HP's OpenNFV platform work in OpenStack and Linux KVM environments.