Virtualisation: two promising concepts
Network virtualisation encompasses two complementary concepts: software-defined networks (SDN) and network functions virtualisation (NFV), both of which make use of cloud computing capabilities. These now make it possible to manage a network in a centralised fashion by using software. This creates a number of possible benefits: the ability to replace physical, proprietary hardware with more standard equipment; more flexible, agile, efficient and automated networks; new business models and reduced capex and opex.
Virtualisation: an imperative for telcos
Even if all operators are taking a cautious approach to virtualisation, more and more are incorporating it into their networks, with the support of a number of SDN/NFV solution providers from the world of open source and IT. Over the past several years, top telcos – including AT&T, BT, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Verizon – have begun to implement SDN/NFV. AT&T has been the most aggressive in this arena, setting itself the goal of having virtualised 75% of its network functions by 2020.
Two types of strategy are being employed, depending on the telco’s main priority:
- Either virtualise the transport network, often as part of a broader transformation process via, among other things, the creation of dedicated datacentres;
- Or virtualise network services targeting the business market with SD-WAN solutions, which allow a company to interconnect its various sites via the Internet – i.e. a more flexible and cost-effective alternative to the links currently being marketed by telcos.
Virtualisation to prepare for 5G
With the advent of IoT and 5G, SDN and NFV will have a major role to play in the networks of telcos who plan on employing network slicing. This is a process that makes it possible to allocate the necessary resources to a given service according to the performance required (in terms of latency, speed, capacity) thanks to the ability to create virtual networks on the same system.