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Network Virtualization: Common Goal but Different Paces – Observations on SDN and OpenFlow APAC Congress and Mobile Asia Expo 2014

by Guang Yang | Jun 17, 2014

I attended SDN and OpenFlow APAC Congress and Mobile Asia Expo in past weeks. During these great events, I received impressive briefings about SDN and NFV from leading vendors and also had valuable discussions with operators. Some interesting points are as below.

SDN is not a revolution but NFV is, according to China Mobile. Many people in the industry are talking about that SDN architecture would be a revolution for telecom networks. But China Mobile does not think SDN is a real revolutionary concept. China Mobile thinks the impacts of SDN are mainly on lower layers of the network, and there are also some alternatives for SDN and OpenFlow architecture. In contrast, China Mobile thinks network virtualization will bring a real earthquake to network industry. Network virtualization could be a revolutionary movement not only for physical network but also for entire network ecosystem.   

In vendors’ side, all vendors that I talked with agree that telecom network would be virtualized eventually. Even the most difficult parts, e.g. the radio access network, could also be virtualized in the future. But different vendors have different views on the timeline. A picture from Ericsson can illustrate a common view on virtualization progress. The network elements could be virtualized from right (in light colors) to left (in dark colors) step by step.

Even though most of established players are still on the right side of the picture, e.g. virtualized BSS/OSS, virtualized IMS/EPC, and etc., some aggressive players are moving to the most left part. Alcatel-Lucent has demonstrated a virtualized proof of concept LTE RAN BBU based on COTS (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) hardware with China Mobile in Mobile World Congress this year. A field trial for virtualized LTE RAN BBU may be performed with the operator next year. Aggressive virtualization timeline may create opportunities for smaller vendors and emerging startups, so established players hope to control the pace of network virtualization. 

Source: Ericsson

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