Oracle Communications is virtualizing its products to help communications service providers more easily make the move to network-functions virtualization environments.
At the LTE World Summit 2015 in Amsterdam July 23, Oracle officials announced the release of four products—the Oracle Communications Session Border Controller, Converged Application Server, Services Gatekeeper and Policy Management—that they said will bring greater flexibility, scalability and automation to service provider networks as they move to network-functions virtualization (NFV).
NFV essentially moves the various network tasks—from load balancing and firewalls to intrusion detection and prevention and routing—from expensive hardware and into software that can be run on lower-cost and less complex systems. Doing so will give service providers and telecommunications vendors the ability to more quickly spin out new services and meet the rapidly changing demands of customers. Oracle is planning to virtualize all its network functions.
However, Oracle Communications officials said that beyond virtualizing the network, communications service providers (CSPs) face a list of challenges, from managing and monetizing their new capabilities to making hybrid network environments work by bridging the physical and virtual divide as they make their NFV journey.
Helping service providers with that also is part of a larger plan being put in place by Doug Suriano, who last month was named senior vice president and general manager of Oracle Communications after coming to the company in 2013 via the acquisition of Tekelec. The company is one of several that Oracle bought in recent years as the software giant has looked to build out its capabilities in the telco industry.
In an interview with eWEEK, Suriano said that an advantage that Oracle Communications has is the ability to draw on the expansive cloud IT portfolio the company is developing. He spoke about bringing cloud capabilities to the service provider space while realizing the particular needs of communications customers. Such organizations have demands around areas like latency, reliability, stateful transactions and lifecycle management that are beyond what are found in traditional enterprise IT networks.
“The telco cloud is still being defined,” Suriano said. “NFV is still being defined.”
The newly virtualized products will help Oracle Communications as it builds out its cloud for service providers. The latest version of the Session Border Controller is available as a virtual network function (VNF) that can run on an array of hardware platforms, which gives CSPs greater flexibility and agility when deploying it. The new offering also helps service providers to offer a more complete lineup of both fixed line and mobile services, officials said.
They can choose how to best deploy the Session Border Controller—such as with a purpose-built system, on a virtual machine or off-the-shelf hardware—more quickly respond to changes in traffic volume by more easily ramping up or down network resources, and more quickly roll out new applications and services.
The Converged Application Service, which also is provided as a VNF, offers a Java-based platform for developing and deploying communications applications. It uses a simple Java interface that will be familiar to any developer experienced with Java Platform Enterprise Edition (Java EE). It also offers fast and reliable data storage through the Oracle Coherence in-memory data grid technology.
Oracle Expands NFV Capabilities for Service Providers
The Services Gatekeeper is used to manage the application program interface (API) lifecycle, enabling service providers to use a GUI to generate APIs in a few minutes. This will enable them to speed up application development, quickly on-board partners and accelerate the monetization of assets to drive revenue growth. The virtualized offering can run on commercial hardware, engineered systems or the cloud, officials said.
A virtualized Policy Management product not only will help service providers continue their migration to NFV and software-defined networking (SDN), but also tighten the integration with charging and billing systems and bring greater network insights through integrated policy analytics.
The NFV push is part of Suriano’s larger strategy for Oracle Communications. In his short time as the lead executive, he has brought together the resources from Tekelec and Acme (which Oracle bought a month before the Tekelec acquisition) with the OSS/BSS (operations support systems/business support systems), which before had been operating independently. Now they are a single, cohesive unit all under the same product, sales, services and support umbrella that can serve the broad range of communications customers, from enterprises to services providers to over-the-top (OTT) companies.
“We’re presenting one face to the customer,” Suriano said, adding that internally the challenge is to ensure the company can manage and monetize everything now that they are under the same tent.
Along with the work to create a communications cloud environment and offer communications customers a single view of Oracle’s communications offerings, Suriano also pointed to other efforts underway, including enabling service providers to offer their customers a better experience through analytics and cloud computing, and improving connections between customers and the growing number of connected devices they’re using while driving down the cost of resources.