Nokia Rolls Out Cloud Hardware Platform for Telcos

The company's AirFrame Data Center Solution is designed to help network operators more easily adopt NFV and cloud computing.

cloud development

Nokia Networks is continuing efforts to better compete with larger rivals like Ericsson and Huawei Technologies in the rapidly evolving telecommunications space.

Nokia in April announced plans to buy Alcatel-Lucent for $16.6 billion. The move will give it greater scale against larger vendors and expand its capabilities in network-functions virtualization (NFV), a key technology being pushed and embraced by telecom operators. Now the company [has] an infrastructure platform designed to help mobile network operators more easily adopt NFV and cloud computing.

The Finnish vendor's AirFrame Data Center Solution includes pre-integrated racks of ultra-dense servers powered by Intel Xeon processors, network switches, and software-defined storage capabilities. It also includes its own data center services and acceleration capabilities to speed up the performance of networking tasks. These include Nokia’s own virtual network functions, OSS/CEM and the new Radio Cloud architecture.

Company officials said the merging of the telco and data center IT capabilities also lays the groundwork for 5G deployments.

The AirFrame platform, which is available now, comes as telco operators are working to migrate away from expensive proprietary infrastructure and adopting data center IT resources to create less expensive and more agile environments that allow them to more quickly spin out new services to their customers. They're adopting such technologies as NFV and software-defined networking (SDN) and embracing the cloud.

It also means that telecom technology providers like Nokia and Ericsson are facing greater competition from data center infrastructure providers like Cisco Systems, Hewlett-Packard and Dell, which are making the move into the mobile operator space. For example, HP—which last year began partnering with Nokia to build an NFV cloud platform for communications service providers—in May introduced its NFV System, a pre-integrated platform that includes its Helion OpenStack cloud portfolio, servers, storage nodes and management software.

HP last month announced it is buying ConteXtream, which offers a carrier-grade software-defined networking fabric for network-functions virtualization environments.

Dell in October 2014 unveiled an open NFV platform that includes PowerEdge servers, the company's Open Networking solutions, and software.

Nokia's AirFrame is designed to take on the "IT-telco convergence with a new solution to challenge the traditional IT approach of the data center," Marc Rouanne, executive vice president of mobile broadband of Nokia, said in a statement. "This newest solution brings telcos carrier-grade high availability, security-focused reliability as well as low latency, while leveraging the company's deep networks expertise and strong business with operators to address an increasingly cloud-focused market."

The platform can run most IT cloud applications and complies with NFV standards developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI). The organization introduced the initial paper on NFV in 2012. NFV removes various networking tasks—such as load balancing, firewalls, and intrusion detection and prevention—from expensive and complex switches and routers and puts them into software that can run atop lower cost commodity hardware.