The Rain in Spain Will Fall Mostly on the Data Plane

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    Network functions virtualization (NFV) and its cousins, software-defined networks (SDNs) and network virtualization (NV), are shaping up to be topics du jour at the Mobile World Congress (MWC), which is being held this week in Barcelona.

    The good thing about technology is that despite the complicated execution and sea of acronyms, the underlying concepts are based on common sense. If explained correctly, they are accessible. Steve Garrison, VP of marketing, Pica8, does just that in a Network World piece that defines NFV, NV and SDNs.

    The simple explanation: The three are working together to take networks from being static and difficult, time consuming and expensive to adjust to being far more flexible and easier to program. They are moving networks from hardware- to software-centric.

    The bottom line is laid out nicely:

    • NV creates tunnels through existing networks so that elements that are on the same network but not directly connected can be linked.
    • NFV puts services – Garrison cites firewalls, Intrusion Detection Prevention Systems (IDPSes) and others – on those NVs.
    • SDNs allow the network to be programmed and managed by divorcing the control and data planes. In other words, the intelligence that dictates exactly where data goes can be in a centralized location. This makes it unnecessary for techs to visit each device to make changes and enables far more prudent global decisions to be made from a single “pane of glass.”

    MWC, which traditionally is an annual mid-winter harbinger of what is hot in mobile, is becoming a more general barometer as the wireless and wireline worlds coalesce. Electronics Weekly ran a piece that quoted Ovum analyst Catherine Haslam on what is expected in Spain this week:

    “To achieve this, operators need flexible and highly manageable networks, and Ovum expects SDN and NFV to move from slideware to reference cases. They also need more and better services, with broadcast LTE, VoLTE, and the integration of Big Data the most prominent, and they need more connections,” said Haslam.

    Carol Wilson at Light Reading provides a rundown of introductions, demonstrations and partnerships that will be on display in Barcelona among vendors in the vital NFV segment. She discusses demonstrations of the virtual Evolved Packet Core by Intel and Red Hat and RAD Data Communications’ NFV capabilities. Dell and Red Hat also will be conducting an NFV demo.

    eWeek’s Jeffrey Burt highlighted still another demo at MWC. Broadcom and Huawei Technologies, according to Burt, are creating a platform that will enable others to serve the market:

    Broadcom will demonstrate a new platform designed to enable system makers and third-party vendors to create virtualized network function applications that can migrate across multiple system-on-a-chip (SoC) platforms, bringing greater flexibility and cost-effectiveness to network operators and service providers who are navigating an increasingly cloud-based environment.

    Juniper also will use MWC to expand its offerings in the programmable networking area. The company introduced the Junos Fusion management plane, and expanded its SDN portfolio with the NorthStar Controller and expanded MX Series routers with service customization tools.

    It clearly is a category that is in the ascendency. CRN reported last week that Hewlett-Packard is launching a unit dedicated to NFV. It will be in the company’s cloud organization and will be headed up by HP networking division Senior Vice President and General Manager Bethany Mayer. She will report to CTO Martin Fink.

    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk
    Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk Carl Weinschenk is a long-time IT and telecom journalist. His coverage areas include the IoT, artificial intelligence, artificial intelligence, drones, 3D printing LTE and 5G, SDN, NFV, net neutrality, municipal broadband, unified communications and business continuity/disaster recovery. Weinschenk has written about wireless and phone companies, cable operators and their vendor ecosystems. He also has written about alternative energy and runs a website, The Daily Music Break, as a hobby.

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