For much of its history, the Mobile World Congress show has been a showcase of the latest mobile devices, a place where systems makers could unveil their latest smartphones and tablets to an audience anxious to try them out.
However, the rapid adoption of those devices by a fast- growing number of users worldwide—combined with such trends as big data, social networking, the Internet of Things (IoT) and cloud computing—is putting increasing pressure on carriers and service providers to build networks that can handle the rising traffic demands and deliver the services users want.It’s becoming an increasingly mobile and cloud-based world, and that trend can be seen at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) over the past couple of years, with the growing carrier presence and the rising number of vendor announcements around network functions virtualization (NFV), which is expected to be a key technology in helping to build more dynamic and agile networks.
The 2015 version of the show illustrated that trend, with large tech vendors unveiling products and services that expand their NFV portfolios and telecommunications companies talking about their NFV efforts.
VMware, which is rapidly expanding its larger data center capabilities into such areas as network virtualization, announced vCloud for NFV, a solution for communications service providers (CSPs) that brings together its broad range of data center virtualization technologies with the OpenStack open-source cloud orchestration platform. For its part, Oracle rolled out the Netra Server X5-2 systems, a converged infrastructure solution designed to help carriers and CSPs implement NFV in their infrastructures.
Other tech vendors hitting on the NFV theme at MWC include Juniper Networks, which in conjunction with Amdocs demonstrated its virtual customer premises equipment (vCPE), and F5 Networks, which showed off such NFV technologies as diameter signaling and carrier-class firewalls.
Carriers and communications service providers (CSPs) also were on hand to talk about their networks. Most prominent was Telefonica, the Spanish telecommunications company that last year at the MWC announced a project to virtualize its network infrastructure by leveraging NFV, software-defined networking (SDN) and the cloud. Telefonica officials at the time said a goal of the project—dubbed Unica—was to virtualize 30 percent of its new infrastructure by 2016.
At this year’s show, Telefonica announced that it has named Hewlett-Packard as the technology provider and systems integrator for Unica, and will leverage HP’s OpenNFV platform in the implementation. The tech vendor unveiled HP OpenNFV at the 2014 MWC show.
Telefonica’s decision is a significant vote of confidence for HP’s NFV efforts and for the NFV movement in general, particularly given that it is one of the world’s largest telecoms, according to Saar Gillai, senior vice president and general manager of NFV at HP.
“This is a big deal,” Gillai told eWEEK. “This is a full roll-out. It’s not a PoC (proof-of-concept). Some people are still putting their toe in [testing NFV]. These guys are all in.”
HP, Telefonica Deal Part of Larger NFV Push at MWC
HP has been aggressive in building out its NFV portfolio. The company a year ago created a division specifically for NFV, and has created the OpenNFV platform aimed at telecoms and network operators. The platform includes HP’s Converged Infrastructure, Helion CloudSystem—an integrated and open solution for creating and managing cloud platform—and NFV Director for orchestration. It also includes a carrier-grade Helion OpenStack distribution for cloud deployments and Distributed Cloud Networking, an SDN offering to optimize network resources via dynamic and service-driven configuration.
HP’s full offering was an important part of Telefonica choosing HP, according to Gillai.
“To really get the benefits [of NFV], you really have to do a full platform,” he said.
The platform’s openness also was key, Gillai said. An attractive part of NFV is to move away from expensive proprietary networking gear and run the software on less costly and open hardware. HP’s OpenNFV platform is compliant with industry-standard servers, storage and networking systems, which gives users greater flexibility for deploying services atop inexpensive systems.
“We are starting here, with HP, not just a new way to deploy networks; even more, a new way to deploy services all based in the cloud,” Enrique Blanco, Telefonica’s global CTO, said in a statement.
NFV and SDN both hold the promise of more agile, dynamic and programmable networks by enabling organizations to put their control planes and networking tasks into software that can run on industry-standard systems.
Also at the show, Telefonica collaborated with Brocade, Intel, Red hat and Cyan to demonstrate an end-to-end NFV instantiation. The demonstration leveraged Cyan’s Blue Planet SDN and NFV platform, Brocade’s Vyatta 5600 vRouter and Telefonica’s virtual infrastructure manager (VIM), with all the NFV hardware powered by Intel chips.