VMware Launches NFV Platform for Service Providers

The vCloud NFV offering, first unveiled earlier this year, is now generally available, along with carrier-grade support and a certification program.

NFV cloud

VMware is bringing its network virtualization capabilities to service providers and telecommunications companies.

At its VMworld 2015 Europe show in Barcelona, Spain, Oct. 13, company officials announced the general availability of its vCloud NFV (network-functions virtualization) platform, carrier-grade support for NFV deployments and a certification program that partners can use to ensure their virtualized network functions (VNFs) can run on VMware's platform.

NFV represents an opportunity for communications service providers (CSPs) to make their network infrastructures more agile, programmable and scalable, enabling them to more quickly build services for customers while driving down costs. At the same time, the technology will let them better compete with a growing number of rivals, according to Shekar Ayyar, corporate senior vice president of strategy and corporate development and general manager of VMware's Telco NFV Group.

"Traditional telcos (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Rogers, etc.) rely on a hardware architecture that has 'done the job' for decades, but are slow to change," Ayyar wrote in a post on the company blog. "CSPs are more or less locked into their existing vendors, unable to switch products or technologies easily. But now CSPs can take advantage of the agility virtualization provides to compete with upstarts such as WhatsApp, Netflix and other so-called OTT (over the top) services that are enticing customers to cut the cord and give up on traditional cable and Telco services altogether."

VMware's vCloud NFV platform, which the company first unveiled earlier this year at Mobile World Congress, supports more than 40 VNFs from 30 vendors, and includes such technologies as VMware's vSphere virtualization offering, Virtual SAN (storage-area network) and NSX network virtualization platform that offers Layer 2/3 features.

The vCloud NFV platform also includes such management solutions as vCloud Director-SP for self-provisioning capabilities and VMware Integrated OpenStack, which includes load-balancing and Ceilometer and Heat Auto Scaling to make VMware-based OpenStack cloud more scalable, more resilient and higher performing, according to officials.

"This is the best possible cloud platform for NFV," David Wright, vice president of operations for the Telco NFV Group, told eWEEK.

Telcos can deploy the platform on industry-standard hardware platforms from such vendors as Dell, EMC, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco Systems and IBM, and can mix and match the hardware. Network equipment providers are working to get certified on the platform, according to Ayyar.

"If flexibility is the primary benefit of NFV, an important secondary benefit is cost savings," he wrote. "With the new cloud architecture in place, service providers will build and own their own cloud platforms; no longer will they rely on their legacy equipment providers to build, implement, and manage the services for them. This agility gives the CSP more control of its own destiny and success in the market."

VMware also is offering carrier-grade support for NFV deployments, including enhanced service-level agreements (SLAs) around the issue of response and restoration of service and SLAs for problem resolution, proactive environment monitoring, dedicated account management and senior support engineers, and enhanced engineering support.

VMware's Ready for NFV program will enable third-party vendors to certify their VNFs to ensure they're compatible with the platform. Initial vendors committing to the platform include Brocade, Mitel, NEC, Affirmed Networks, Metaswitch, VeloCloud and Versa Networks.

"You can run any application on the same platform," Wright said.

VMware's technology is designed to make it easier for CSPs to adopt network virtualization, according to Ayyar.

"Today, you would be hard-pressed to find a data center that hasn't virtualized at least part, if not most, of its infrastructure," he wrote. "By contrast, most CSPs haven't invested much at all in their core network when it comes to virtualization. But I believe the benefits of doing so are so compelling, that in the next five to seven years, virtualization will be part of every CSP's infrastructure."

CSPs are looking for those kinds of capabilities, Wright said.

"They want to use NFV as a way to become more agile in the infrastructure," he said.