Mobile network definitions are changing and it’s causing a tidal shift in the relationship between software and hardware.
Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN) are positioned for explosive growth as urgency is elevated around building lighter, more agile frameworks. Infonetics Research predicts the NFV/SDN market will reach $11 billion by 2018, up from less than $500 million in 2013.
Infonetics forecasts that 68 percent of that revenue will come from NFV and also “ports on routers, switches, and optical gear that have become SDN capable.” The study attributes very little market value to orchestration and control.
Barry Hill, global head of NFV at Oracle, sees it differently. Hill, who joined Oracle about six months ago, sold his own software startup, Connectem, to Brocade. He’s been working in SDN and NFV since before they were buzzwords.
As networks move away from hardware being intrinsically connected to software and toward a more “vanilla infrastructure,” Hill questions how networks can maintain performance standards while still meeting the unique requirements of tasks like moving packets and implementing policy.
These are the questions driving Oracle’s recent Network Service Orchestration solution, built for letting network providers scale out new services quickly and in a cost-efficient manner, and a new collaboration with Intel’s Open Network Platform. The thinking is that by directing network activity to Intel’s processor, service providers can get levels of optimization previously only available from hardware, as network functions move to the data center.
Hill added to that, saying that this solution could allow network operators to chain together functions to create services and ensure that each network function is optimized with the cloud environment.
Oracle and Intel are not the only companies working toward pushing OpenStack-based technologies into increasingly more virtualized networks.
Ericsson recently tapped Canonical’s Ubuntu OS for a three-year partnership in hopes of driving telecom cloud innovations around OPNFV (Open Platform for NFV) Ubuntu Server OS will be the host OS for Ericsson’s Cloud Execution Environment, a tie-up geared toward assisting telecoms with automation and optimization in the cloud.
Meanwhile, IBM announced that it’s building two new network innovation centers—in Dallas, Texas and Nice, France—specifically tasked with providing hands-on experience with SDN and virtualization options for IT and telecom customers. IBM’s efforts too are focused on providing orchestration as software and hardware become less exclusive.
As appliance giants like IBM realign network infrastructure strategies and software gets more rock star treatment, what is hardware’s role in new network frameworks?
Hill said that when he first started his previous company, he already saw hardware reaching a level where it could be de-coupled from software and run on standard infrastructure. From there he says hardware has continued to get better but now its role has changed.
What Hill is starting to see now is that network optimization doesn’t necessarily need to be a function of hardware. It’s a function of how you apply the various components in a cloud—hardware, software, hypervisor, bare metal, etc—against the specific application you need to activate.
“If you’re smart about that, there’s no shortage of capacity, power and performance. It’s just how you put it together so that it’s optimized,” Hill said.
Filed Under: Infrastructure