This is a co-authored blog with Kevin Shatzkamer, Mobile CTO, Brocade and Paul Brittain, VP of wireless & multimedia products, Metaswitch Networks
The networking industry has been inundated with information on network functions virtualization (NFV) over the past few years. Thus, the perceived benefits of NFV are well known by now: increased overall network flexibility, ability to quickly scale the network up and down and increased service velocity. For mobile service providers, these NFV benefits hold true and can help scale existing networks to handle the massive amounts of network traffic and enable services such as Voice Over LTE (VoLTE).
As we speak with mobile service providers most have plans to implement NFV in their networks, however, actual NFV implementations have been very slow to occur. In fact, there are currently very few NFV deployments running in production environments today. While we have seen significant interest in NFV, our customers tell us there are many obstacles that they need to solve before widespread adoption happens.
One of the common concerns is the very broad scope of the NFV architecture, and the consequent investment in new tools, infrastructure and operational processes in order to deploy NFV arcross an entire network. We hear two predominant questions as operators seek to deploy NFV:
How do mobile service providers integrate NFV within the existing mobile network without doing forklift upgrades?
What virtual network functions (VNFs) should be deployed initially to get the most benefit?
Despite industry claims that NFV will reduce overall CapEx, mobile service providers understand there is an initial upfront investment that must be weighed within current budget constraints. In addition, NFV represents a significant operational paradigm shift. The move to NFV technologies transforms the network from a physical, proprietary hardware model with CLI configurations to software running on x86 compute equipment. This is a massive transformation that requires additional skillsets and a different mindset. Hardware skillsets become less important and software skillsets are needed, something many mobile service providers are early in the process of developing. All of these challenges have mobile service providers facing some uncertainties how to proceed with NFV and therefore, are delaying NFV deployments.
Recognizing these challenges, Brocade and Metaswitch have teamed up to help mobile service providers accelerate the deployment of NFV by developing a ‘NFV-in-a-Box’ solution, specifically focused on allowing mobile operators to deploy NFV-based IMS VoLTE. Rather than NFV simply being a technology to implement without a clear path as to how, Brocade and Metaswitch have combined technologies to develop pre-integrated and validated solutions. Combined, these solutions represent an ‘Easy button’ approach to VoLTE NFV deployments.
The solution can be integrated within existing network infrastructure without a forklift upgrade. The vIMS solution supports a wide range of management and orchestration (MANO) lifecycle operations to ease integration within existing networks and realize the full potential of NFV, but is focused a layer deeper than the current state of NFV - solving a real challenge (IMS VoLTE rollout), with a real solution. These lifecycle operations include instantiation, configuration, startup, clustering, quiescing and termination.
The Brocade/Metaswitch vIMS Solution
The validated, completely virtual solution includes the following components:
Packet Gateway (vPGW) for IMS VoLTE APN
Home Subscriber Server (vHSS) [optional]
IMS Core (P-CSCF, I/S-CSCF, BGCF, I-BCF)
SBC, Firewall, NAT, and other security functions
VoLTE IMS Telephony Application Server (TAS) and MRF
Virtual IP and SIP Routing Functions
The solution includes a number of products from both Brocade and Metaswitch including:
Meets the challenges of today’s networks with sophisticated network security, advanced management of packet throughput under all load conditions, extensive protocol interworking and normalization, and complete packet analysis for in-depth problem isolation and repair
Provides detailed diagnostics for all calls, over all protocols, all the time
Provides detailed call traces that enable your technicians to diagnose many common configuration, network and interoperability problems, saving you time and money
Overall Solution architecture
NFV in a Box Solution:
This provides a view as to how the Brocade / Metaswitch IMS VoLTE NFV-in-a-Box solution maps to the ETSI NFV Architecture.
As mentioned earlier, the primary intention of the joint solution is to break down the barriers for mobile service providers and help them with their transformation to NFV technologies. Specifically, this solution provides a number of benefits to achieve this:
Capability Value to Mobile Service Provider
Brocade and Metaswitch believe this approach to jointly validating solutions that make it easier for mobile service providers to consume and integrate within their existing network will help jump start the transition to NFV. The vIMS solution is a great start and we look forward to helping break down the barriers mobile service providers are facing so they can soon realize the full benefits NFV has to offer.
Request a meeting at Mobile World Congress to see a demo and learn more about the Brocade & Metaswitch NFV-in-a-box solution.