VMware Unveils NFV Platform for Mobile Networks

The company is combining its data center virtualization capabilities with OpenStack to create its vCloud for NFV solution for service providers.

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VMware is bringing together its broad array of data center virtualizations technologies and the OpenStack open-source cloud orchestration platform to create a network-functions virtualization platform for service providers.

VMware announced the VMware vCloud for NFV at this week’s Mobile World Congress 2015 (MWC), saying it will give communications service providers (CSPs) a single platform on which to run a wide range of virtualized network functions from multiple vendors.

vCloud is part of VMware's "larger strategy … to virtualize any kind of resource in the data center management domain," David Wright, vice president of operations for VMware's Telecommunications NFV Group, told eWEEK. "One of the [topics] we'll be talking about this week [at MWC] is the notion of one cloud, many apps."

CSPs and carriers are getting a lot of attention at the MWC in Barcelona. As the world increasingly becomes more mobile and wireless speeds get faster, telecommunications vendors are under pressure to ensure that their networks are scalable and adaptable to meet the changing demand of end users, and that they can more quickly spin out services for their customers. Hewlett-Packard's announcement March 2 that it is buying wireless networking specialist Aruba Networks for $2.7 billion dovetails with this trend.

VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger is scheduled to talk about mobility in his address at MWC March 4.

NFV and software defined networking (SDN) are rapidly gaining the attention of service providers and enterprises looking to develop more dynamic, programmable and affordable networks by taking the network management and intelligence that traditionally has resided in expensive proprietary switches and routers and putting them into software that can be more easily managed and run on less expensive commodity hardware.

VMware, which pioneered the idea of server virtualization in standard x86 server environments, has become more aggressive in recent years in embracing the promise of cloud- and software-based data center resources, including storage and networking. In 2012, VMware acquired SDN pioneer Nicira on whose technology its NSX platform is based.

NSX has thrust VMware into the highly competitive SDN space against such established players as Cisco Systems, HP, Juniper Networks and Brocade, and now the company is leveraging it as part of its vCloud for NFV effort.

VMware's integrated vCloud for NFV solution includes its vSphere compute virtualization technology, its Virtual SAN software-defined storage offering, NSX and vRealize Operations, a cloud-management technology that will offer management packs for CSPs.

In addition, the NFV platform o will include full compatibility with OpenStack through VMware's Integrated OpenStack offering. It's a broadly horizontal platform that "is very neutral to the hardware underneath and very neutral to the apps above," Wright said.

The vCloud offering will virtualize essentially any hardware environment and will run third-party applications on top of it, he said. It supports more than 40 different virtual network functions from more than 30 vendors, and that will only grow in the future, particularly as VMware develops APIs purpose-built for virtual container environments like Docker.

VMware sees the NFV platform as helping service providers and carriers not only adopt NFV, but also to more easily migrate to OpenStack. The vCloud for NFV platform is available immediately, with integration of VMware Integrated OpenStack coming later in the first quarter, according to the company.

"We are seeing OpenStack momentum continue to grow across the CSP market as our customers seek to achieve greater agility, and to leverage Open APIs to support true multi-vendor NFV," Shekar Ayyar, corporate senior vice president of strategy and corporate development and general manager of VMware's Telco NFV Group, said in a statement. "OpenStack also supports the NFV objective of dramatically reducing infrastructure costs to address continued margin erosion. CSPs need an OpenStack distribution that is optimized for a mature NVFI platform that helps them get started today and carries them through tomorrow."