|Topic:||The service driven network: creating an end-to-end cloud-based telecoms industry|
to boost innovation and drive down costs:
|Title:||EVP, Carrier Division in Europe|
Kazuya Hashimoto, Executive Vice President of NEC’s Carrier Division in Europe
Kazuya Hashimoto took over leadership of NEC’s rapidly growing SDN/NFV business in Europe in November 2013.
He has been working in the telecoms industry for 30 years across a broad range of handset, application, access and core network disciplines. Kazuya began his career at NEC in 1984, developing the company’s analog cellular handset system business before moving on to focus on mobile applications from 2005 to 2007. He was then being promoted to a role as general manager of NEC’s global radio access network division where he led base station development and business expansion. Prior to his current position, he led the company’s global wired and wireless business as VP and executive GM of the Network Platform Operations Unit.
Kazuya holds an MA in Applied Physics from the University of Tokyo.
Telecom operators urgently need to reduce management complexities and create new revenue streams by making their network simpler and more flexible. Virtualizing and pooling compute, store and network resources on open, multi-vendor platforms – rather than relying on proprietary fixed-function network elements – will enable them to centrally control multiple services running on common infrastructure to maximize utilization levels, cut costs and increase resilience in addition to providing the ability to innovate and monetize new services fast. Trials and deployments of SDN and NFV solutions around the world are already delivering these benefits in the enterprise, datacentre and telecom sectors in EMEA.
Achieving profitability in a data dominant era
Carriers face a profitability challenge in today’s data dominant era. Traffic levels are rising steeply in parallel with network costs, while revenues are stagnating and profit margins diminishing. Telcos face increasing competition from both inside and outside the traditional telecoms value chain. As more traffic flows to Over-The-Top service (OTT) providers, operators need to find a new way to reduce operating costs, while boosting the their ability to introduce innovative new services fast.
How can SDN help?
Software Defined Networking (SDN) abstracts traffic from expensive, fixed-function hardware onto a virtualised software layer running on cost-competitive Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) servers. At the same time it separates the system that makes decisions about where traffic is sent – the control plane – from the system that forwards traffic to the selected destination – the data or forwarding plane.
Telecoms services are traditionally run using fragmented network silos. This results in the inefficient use of infrastructure resources with stranded capacity and duplicated management effort. Through the centralized control of a distributed network, SDN enables simplified provisioning, high levels of automation, the introduction of more granular Quality of Service (QoS) or security policies, improved visibility of system performance and the flexibility to up-scale or hibernate resources in real time in line with traffic demand. It also creates opportunities for intelligent traffic management enabling operators to predict problems and to take preventive actions, which is not possible using proprietary, hard-wired networking gear with pre-determined access control lists and routing protocols.
As a result, operators can react quicker to unplanned events, such as competitor activities or an outage, and introduce smart data analysis to support business innovation and flexible traffic charging policies. As there’s no specialty silicon to develop or purpose-built boxes to design, test and install across the network, software-based functions are also faster to deploy.
What is NFV?
NFV enables virtualized network services to be quickly deployed on COTS platforms and adjusted through software, and is helping to create a new network innovation ecosystem of start-ups and established vendors.
In combination, SDN and NFV enables services to be delivered as virtual network slices over a common underlying network infrastructure to meet differentiated Service Level Agreement (SLA) requirements. SDN and NFV enable a virtual network for an online video streaming service to provide the real-time connectivity with exceptionally low levels of latency while data services are ‘best effort’ and therefore less expensive and a voice network has the QoS equivalent to circuit switched telephony.
Telco customers are making considerable capital cost savings through the use of COTS platforms rather than proprietary hardware in EMEA. However, the biggest reductions are being seen in OPEX and this delivers benefits year-on-year. Savings can be made through the ability to consolidate network functions onto fewer, common multi-service virtualised platforms, exploit IT-type maintenance costs, automate operations and use less consolidated hardware floor space and energy.
Increasing revenues with SDN and NFV
NFV not only helps operators cut costs, but also makes it easier for them to quickly introduce new multimedia entertainment and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) services. Operators will also be able to monetize traffic quickly in new ways. This could include ‘bandwidth on demand’, enabling enterprises to dynamically establish or resize network connectivity, or ‘bandwidth exchanges’ to help balance capacity supply and demand between MNOs and MVNOs. It’s even conceivable that “premium QoS commitment” will be offered, enabling high priority OTT traffic to receive better than best-effort treatment within the operator’s network at a higher price providing concerns about net neutrality can be resolved.
The virtualized DataCentre (vDC)
SDN’s first applications have been in intra- and inter- datacentre networking. SDN controllers, in conjunction with Traffic Management Systems (TMS), monitor bandwidth utilization and traffic levels shared by multiple tenants, while SDN orchestration creates virtual resources on demand and enables smart networking between datacentres. When virtual machines need to be migrated, the management platform automatically implements the policies of the original source switch on the target switch that will be used from that point on.
A Virtual Tenant Network capability is used to support chained network functions on underlying appliance pools with dynamic service insertion that enable operators to configure, view and manage delivery of end-to-end services as optimized forwarding graphs.
The virtualised Evolved Packet Core (vEPC)
When it comes to carrier-specific technologies, the EPC is likely to be the first network element to be virtualized, driven by LTE rollouts to meet skyrocketing data demand while containing costs. The analyst group ABI forecasts that a third of new EPC installs will be virtualised within five years. The world’s first commercialised vEPC solution was launched in mid-2013 and a number of trials and deployments are already underway.
The vEPC features independent control and data plane scaling to support the specific needs of video or M2M services for example. The vEPC can be flexibly configured to handle more sessions on the control plane, but fewer on the data plane as M2M sensors regularly transmit very small amounts of data. The converse is true of video of course.
The virtualised Mobile Network Virtual Operator gateway (vMVNO)
A vMVNO gateway can be installed to establish connectivity between the MVNO and carrier’s mobile network, providing security and certification functions and management of bandwidth and usage. It can also be used by MVNO enablers or aggregators to host core network functions.
Traditionally, MVNOs are required to introduce gateway systems in order to establish connections with carriers through a layer 2 data link, which can be expensive and involve lengthy setup delays. The gateway overcomes these challenges and meets the need for more flexible and scalable services, such as session management, IP address management, the collection of charging data and security control.
Virtualised Customer Premise Equipment (vCPE)
A vCPE is a “thin client” device featuring a modem, switch, and WiFi access point with all other functionality provisioned remotely from the cloud. Functions – such as DHCP, carrier-grade network address translation (CGNAT) and broadband remote access server (B-RAS) – are migrated to the cloud. Service providers can deploy or update services quickly and cost-effectively without having to replace any customer equipment. The simplified home gateway – which can be used to support a new generation of VoIP, TV, broadband and mobile services – is also less prone to breakdowns and faults and upgrades can be rolled out remotely, reducing operational costs.
Once infinite processing capacity is available in the cloud, big data analytics and end-to-end awareness of network conditions will make it possible to make better backhaul decisions. With centralised dispatching, the network can automatically calculate the optimal service paths and complete path commissioning. If there is high demand or a power outage in one segment, capacity can shift to an alternate path, for example from optical to wireless backhaul. SDN also opens a new range of spectrum optimisation, re-use and interference management techniques at the network level.
Operation and orchestration
A separate, end-to-end service orchestration layer between the BSS/OSS and network control layers is required to enable operators monetize multi-vendor virtualized, as well as hybrid networks and services, facilitate new revenue models and deliver the best possible network experience. The orchestrator streamlines the order-to-activation processes and enables service assurance. For example, the orchestrator will automatically recognise when infrastructural resources, such as memory or processor cores, are reaching capacity and spins up another virtual machine. It also facilitates the correlation of faults or incidents with service outages and provides customer impact analysis. Critically, it provides unified business activity monitoring, analysis and reporting capabilities.
At the same time the BSS/OSS provides billing policy, charging and analytics capabilities to segment customers by service usage, identify cross-selling opportunities and monitor the reasons for churn. Together these technologies can help to increase customer retention and boost revenues.
The importance of open innovation
Operators need to select SDN and NFV solutions built on an open platform to enable disruptive, multivendor innovation and drive down costs. This will make lock-ins into a vendor’s solution roadmaps a thing of the past and create the rich ecosystem of innovation that the IT industry has benefitted from over many years. Carriers can then be confident of realising wide ranging cost reduction and service innovation benefits long into the future.
Caption: The service and network orchestrator for SDN/NFV provides a centralized orchestration catalogue in addition to real-time configuration management, service lifecycle management, policy and analytics functions.