BARCELONA: VMware has made available vCloud NFV, a platform designed to let communications service providers (CSPs) move to a software-based model for their infrastructure.
The platform is backed by an accreditation programme for developers building network function virtualisation (NFV) applications, and support services to help carriers with deployment and ongoing operations.
Announced at VMworld Europe 2015, vCloud NFV is VMware's platform for NFV, an emerging market that aims to bring the benefits of cloud and virtualisation to CSPs, which have until now relied on costly dedicated hardware to power their networks.
The platform brings together many of VMware's data centre technologies, including vSphere for running the virtual machines that encapsulate virtual network functions, the VSAN software defined storage server and the NSX platform that provides software-defined networking.
These core components are overlaid by vCloud Director for Service Providers, an optimised version of VMware's management tool, along with vRealise Operations Insight for performance management and analytics, and Site Recovery Manager for disaster recovery.
In addition, vCloud NFV incorporates VMware Integrated OpenStack, the firm's build of the OpenStack framework, as an alternative management option to vCloud Director for those telecoms firms that want this.
The platform was first detailed at Mobile World Congress earlier this year, but was mostly a reference architecture at that stage. Since then, VMware has worked with telecoms partners to fully develop it into a shipping product, according to Andy Kennedy, network virtualisation platform engineer at VMware.
"This is a validated solution that is bundled, so it is easy for customers to procure, consume and deploy, with a key focus on ‘Day 2 operations' and management, because it's one thing to build and deploy a cloud and a different thing to run and maintain that cloud," he said.
For this reason, vCloud NFV is just one of three pillars of VMware's NFV strategy. The other two are the VMware Ready for NFV programme to certify network functions developed by partners, and vCloud Carrier-Grade Support to provide technical backup.
"With CSPs, their expectations are a little bit different from a regular enterprise, therefore we've enhanced the level of service that we give to customers to do fault resolution and time to resolution," Kennedy said.
VMware partners will also offer support services for NFV, such as Nokia Networks with its TotalCare packages, he added.
NFV promises to cut the costs of developing and operating new services for telecoms firms, and enable greater speed and flexibility, and VMware sees a chance to seize a large slice of this market by offering a ready-made platform based on proven technology and backed by professional support.
For its part, VMware said it is supporting an open standard approach it calls the common platform model, which follows the pattern set by data centre virtualisation where customers can choose commodity servers at the hardware level and have the freedom to mix and match solutions from different software providers, rather than being locked into a proprietary technology stack.
To back up this claim, Kennedy said that vCloud NFV already boasts more than 40 virtual network functions provided by 30 different vendors, a number it hopes to expand with the VMware Ready for NFV programme.
VMware's commitment to open standards is also seen in its support of OpenStack in vCloud NFV. There is a certain level of enthusiasm among telecoms firms for the open source framework, and VMware is backing both horses by including it as a management layer option.
However, OpenStack is still a work in progress as far as NFV is concerned, whereas many telecoms firms are impatient to implement an NFV strategy as soon as possible.
"Based on our assessment of the marketplace, and based on the feedback we've been given, we have yet to see anyone go live with OpenStack in a deployment carrying production traffic, so we see OpenStack support as a forward-looking viewpoint at this stage," Kennedy said.
In contrast, VMware technology is currently being used by Vodafone Germany to drive its voice-over LTE service, with other deployments at Telekom Austria, Ooredoo in Kuwait and Internet Initiative Japan, according to Kennedy.
VMware vCloud NFV is generally available now, while Carrier-Grade Support is available only to a limited number of customers at the moment. General availability is planned for the first quarter of 2016.
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