Network virtualisation: why operators are taking to the clouds?

By Alexey Sushkov, Nexign’s Chief R&D Engineer.


Network function virtualisation (NFV) is revolutionising how telecommunications operators approach network management. According to a report by Analysys Mason, expenditure on NFV software and hardware in 2018 will total more than USD 5 billion, a figure which is set to rise to USD 13 billion by 2021.

The analysts believe that: NFV will help network operators to transition more quickly from the communications service provider (CSP) model to the digital service provider (DSP) model, thereby boosting business efficiency.

How will virtual networks help operators to become DSPs?

  • Transitioning to NFV reduces operating expenditure (OPEX) and total cost of ownership (TCO);
  • It decreases time-to-market for new products and services, and therefore increases average revenue per user (ARPU);
  • Network operators will have the ability to automate routine operations, improve infrastructure reliability and security, and reduce downtime in the event of incidents.

Let’s take a look at how exactly this works.

More traffic – more network attention

Mobile operator networks are built on different network components provided by third-party manufacturers. These are needed in order to manage, expand, and configure networks, support new communications standards, introduce new subscriber services – and achieve all this as quickly as possible.

One of the major reasons why regular network upgrades are necessary is the constant increase in traffic. Traffic on mobile networks has been increasing by more than a third every year for the last two decades. Analysts at Cisco expect the volume of mobile data transmitted to grow sevenfold by 2021!

Why? The number of user devices that consume bandwidth is growing. New mobile apps are emerging, and users are increasingly watching video and television in HD. Technologies associated with the Internet of Things/M2M and VoLTE (Voice over LTE) are developing.

These new challenges necessitate new industry standards. Under the aegis of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), service providers have adopted a new standard for network virtualisation – ETSI NFV.

The idea behind the standard is reminiscent of the IT-cloud. The system consists of several layers: infrastructure, management, and applications, with standardised interfaces between them.

ETSI NFV stipulates that network equipment manufacturers should share software and hardware, and make it possible for their apps to be launched on standard servers. After that operators are purchasing standard equipment, installing virtualisation and orchestration platforms, and launching software already as virtual network function (VNF).

This is what the simplified standard scheme looks like

In order to make effective use of VNF systems, it is also essential to implement standardised interfaces for managing and monitoring these systems, covering launch, termination, scaling, configuration, and health checks.

With an NFV orchestrator (NFVO) and a virtual network function manager (VNFM), it is possible to standardise lifecycle management of apps from different developers.

How can the potential of NFV be maximised? VNFs must be cloud ready. This means that they have to be able to automatically restore themselves following faults (fault tolerance); be independent of infrastructure; be horizontally scalable; be able to be upgraded without affecting service; and meet security requirements.

Operators are increasingly choosing tech stacks from OpenStack to meet their NFV infrastructure (NFVI) needs. Here’s why

  • OpenStack is an open source project. The source code is open, and therefore secure;
  • OpenStack does not require purchase of a licence;
  • Clients can use OpenStack themselves without needing to pay for technical support;
  • Operators using OpenStack are not tied to a single equipment and software supplier (no so-called vendor lock-in);
  • The OpenStack ecosystem is actively developing. More companies producing software and network equipment are getting involved every year;
  • OpenStack is simple and effective to use once it has been installed and set up. Computational resources are distributed by means of a graphical interface or API, the virtual machine is ready for use in just a few minutes or even seconds, and a security system guarantees distributed access to resources.

Nexign in collaboration with Red Hat, helps CSPs realize the full potential of network functions virtualization (NFV) technology on OpenStack.

Nexign Network Monetisation Suite products (NWM_PCRF, NWM_OCS, NWM DRA) have been certified as tested and compatible with Red Hat OpenStack Platform. This makes it possible to launch an NWM product on any hardware platform running Red Hat OpenStack Platform as a virtual network function (VNF).

With NWM running on OpenStack, CSPs can reduce OPEX, lower TCO and shorten time-to-market for new products and services. You can be sure that our software is fully compatible with Red Hat OpenStack and that Red Hat engineers, backed by many years’ experience in developing and supporting open-source software solutions, will quickly and efficiently resolve any issues you may have in using OpenStack-based NFVI.

Stay connected!