[Introduction] With our mature suite of NFV products and services, combined with our proven integration management capabilities and supported by our increasingly comprehensive testing and verification facilities, Huawei is well on the road to becoming a senior NFV Prime System Integrator.
Telecom operators have always strived to provide better and faster network services for their users, and they have in fact made considerable progress on both fronts. In just under 10 years, they have achieved exponential growth in the bearing capacity of OTNs and WANs. In terms of access, PON FTTH and 4G fast download rates now provide end users with access that's over 10 times faster.
Nevertheless, these major technological advances and capacity building accomplishments have not as yet translated into greater returns for operators, but have instead paved the way for the rapid proliferation of OTT applications. This huge increase in the number of OTT apps on the market has also added pressure to operator earnings. Take revenue from SMS services as an example: Several years ago, the volume of SMS messaging over the Chinese New Year period alone, brought China Mobile several hundred million yuan in additional revenue. Then, after WeChat’s user base reached 200 million, the huge popularity of this SNS application led to a sharp decline in China Mobile’s voice and SMS revenue. According to statistics, there are now over 700 million WeChat users, and the negative impact on operator business continues to grow.
For operators to successfully compete with OTTs and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) in the applications sector, they will require the same rapid development and operations capabilities of the likes of Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent (BAT), Amazon and Google. But operators typically lack this agility. Another challenge facing operators is that since their core business is telecoms-centric, it’s rather difficult for them to rapidly diversify their service offerings and transform their businesses accordingly. Traditional CT vendors, with their telecom sector knowledge and experience, are much better positioned to rapidly develop new and innovative applications. However, the sole focus of these CT vendors is to simply sell their network-centric products and services, which compromises their overall value to the operator, thus limiting the competitive advantage they can offer. Meanwhile the pure IT vendors, who lack understanding of the operator’s business, are nevertheless attempting to redefine the industry structure by trying to re-position themselves as a prominent player within the operator transformation movement.
NFV: The answer to operator dilemmas? Carving out the Operator’s slice of the ‘App-pie’
Operators are fed up with their existing network systems. Integrated network equipment and functions, tedious planning-based network construction and exclusive usage of resources (multi-vendor / system / versions) make interconnection and joint debugging difficult. From software to hardware, new functional requirements are being defined by vendors, leaving no room for effective competition from the operators. And, whereas they have the means to monitor and analyze resource utilization, operators lack an end-to-end (E2E) view of the network in terms of revenue generation, that which would enable them to selectively optimize their network investments. Simply put, the rigidity of today’s networks is making it nigh impossible for operators to compete for this lucrative and fast-growing app business. They realize all too well that open network architecture is the only way forward for them.
On the surface, pure Information Technology players might at first appear to be a proper choice of partner with which to move forwards, but operators naturally hesitate because they know all too well that traditional IT vendors lack that critical understanding of and practical experience in the telecom sector and with Communications Technology (CT). This is the key critical advantage that a unified ICT solution partner can offer them. To compete effectively with the OTTs and ISPs in the applications sector, operators will have to remove the constraints that their ‘closed in’ networks impose on their ability to rapidly develop and deploy their very own new and innovative applications. Similar to that of the IT sector, the architecture of telecommunications networks needs to be opened up so as to enable operators to carve out their own piece of the ‘App-pie’.
The two most powerful features of network functions virtualization (NFV) are that it is open and fast. NFV adopts a horizontal network architecture that deploys a unified cloud OS on common hardware. Virtual network functions (VNFs) are then deployed to cloud-ify existing network equipment and services through VNF orchestration. Due to NFV’s decoupling of software from hardware using function abstraction, network equipment functions no longer have to rely on specialized hardware. This allows resources to be easily shared, giving way to the rapid development and deployment of new services, to facilitate for automatic deployment, scalability, fault isolation and self-healing, based on actual business needs.
Arguably, NFV can truly address the major issues that operators face, but since it is a rather novel phenomenon, are operators willing to roll up their sleeves and give it a go? Are there challenges in store? Here are just a few of the major issues that must be dealt with:
Operators will definitely have to develop a new business model. Typically, they’re only familiar with voice and data services and lack experience in content and application marketing. Also, once the network architecture shifts to an IT based NFV open network architecture, operators will have to balance their investments. This will also impact ICT vendors, who will then have to offer operators ‘integrated solutions’ instead of mere equipment and/or software systems, and both the operators and ICT vendors will have to negotiate new business collaboration models.
Network Planning & Design
Network planning and design of an IT based NFV open network architecture will present significant engineering challenges. The unified management of virtual hardware resources and the introduction of VxLAN technology will pave the way for the pooling of data center resources, and capacity optimization with such large-scale data centers will become an additional challenge for operators. Furthermore, while NFV will simplify network architectures, it brings into question whether or not IT architecture can realize carrier-level reliability. As such, it will have to be proven that NFV networks are not only simple and efficient but also robust and reliable.
Plenty of effort will be required as well on the Systems Integration front, where multi-module, cross-level integration will have to be supported. For example, the functions of the OSI 4-7 layers must be unified on the application layer, yet standardized solutions for such integrations have yet to be created. The source code-based OpenStack intermediate system will have to be opened through APIs to numerous third party applications, which will lead to a significant increase in ICT development and maintenance costs. Additionally, most of the original CT architecture-based testing methods and tools will become obsolete, so new network optimization and testing tools must be developed. And yet another new challenge that the operator and their ICT partner will have to deal with is the need for integration between existing OSS and BSS systems and Management and Orchestration (MANO).PSI: The best choice!
Difficulties and rewards come hand in hand. So how do operators go about making the right choice of ICT Integration partner? Huawei believes that the ‘Prime System Integrator’ (PSI) approach is the most applicable, cost-effective model that an operator can follow throughout the process of selecting their preferred ICT partner. The PSI model enables operators to thoroughly assess multiple ICT vendors, including the products and services they offer, their project management methodologies and system and business process integration capabilities. By applying the PSI model, operators will also assess the module integration and service deployment platforms of the various candidate ICT vendors.
A PSI must build distinct platforms for: network planning, business modeling, simulation and verification, integration program implementation, performance monitoring and operations support. In addition to its overall leadership role, it’s essential that the PSI have proven credentials in such mission critical areas as: planning and design, multi-vendor integration and IT systems and business process integration. Additionally, the PSI will be responsible for overseeing the integration of four separate technical integration modules, including NFV Infrastructure / (NFVI) integration, MANO integration, applications platform integration, and existing equipment and systems integration.
Huawei’s PSI Credentials
Huawei is thoroughly dedicated to building an open industry ecosystem, based on our NFV open network architecture. Our newly constructed NFV Open Lab, located in Xi'an China, boasts state-of-the-art facilities to conduct service development, service fulfillment and verification of the OpenStack and NFV environments. It also provides complimentary services such as technical training, certifications and technology demos. We work globally with many leading operators and vendors, such as Vodafone, HP and VMware.
A pioneer and leader in NFV ecosystem and associated technology, Huawei has actively participated in and made outstanding contributions to NFV standards and research organizations:
As chair of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) Infrastructure Work Group (WG), Huawei has had 236 of its proposals adopted, has contributed to all 9 use cases, and was the main contributor for 4 of them
In 2013, Huawei became an OpenStack gold member and participated in key research for the MPLS VPN and Neutron projects
In 2014, Huawei was honored at the IMS World Forum for the "Most Innovative Virtualized IMS Solution"
At the ONF (Open Network Foundation), Huawei plays a leadership role in nine different projects, including wireless, Northbound Interface (NBI) and optical transmission solutions. It has been honored as an "Outstanding Technical Contributor" in network security and has contributed to 7 of the 9 use cases.
With investments and representation throughout the entire NFV sector, Huawei has matured its products and technology, enhanced the recognition of its integration management capabilities and optimized its increasingly comprehensive testing and verification environment. As it continues on its path to becoming the Prime System Integrator of Choice to operators world-wide, Huawei remains dedicated to its work throughout the telecoms sector to accelerate the dawn of NFV.