This Post is extracted from my report published October 1, 2014.
Cloud and Software Defined Networking have been technologies explored successively in academia, IT and enterprise since 2011 and the creation of the Open Networking Foundation.
They were mostly subjects of interest relegated to science projects in wireless networks until, in the fall of 2013, a collective of 13 mobile network operators co-authored a white paper on Network Functions Virtualization. This white paper became a manifesto and catalyst for the wireless community and was seminal to the creation of the eponymous ETSI Industry Standardization Group.
Almost simultaneously, AT&T announced the creation of a new network architectural vision – Domain 2.0, heavily relying on SDN and NFV as building blocks for its next generation mobile network.
Today, SDN and NFV are hot topics in the industry and many companies have started to position themselves with announcements, trials, products and solutions.
This report is the result of hundreds of interviews, briefings and meetings with many operators and vendors active in this field. In the process, I have attended, participated, chaired various events such as OpenStack, ETSI NFV ISG, SDN & OpenFlow World Congress and became a member at ETSI, OpenStack and TM Forum.
The Open Network Foundation, the Linux Foundation, OpenStack, the OpenDaylight project, IEEE, ETSI, the TM Forum are just a few of the organizations who are involved in the definition, standardization or facilitation of cloud, SDN and NFV. This report provides a view on the different organizations contribution and their progress to date.
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as SDN-NFV today. These are technologies that have overlaps and similarities but stand apart widely. Software Defined Network is about managing network resources. It is an abstraction that allows the definition and management of IP networks in a new fashion. It separates data from control plane and allows network resources to be orchestrated and used across applications independently of their physical location. SDN exhibits a level of maturity through a variety of contributions to its leading open-source contribution community, OpenStack. In its ninth release, the architectural framework is well suited for abstracting cloud resources, but is dominated by enterprise and general IT interests, with little in term of focus and applicability for wireless networks.
Network Function Virtualization is about managing services. It allows the breaking down and instantiation of software elements into virtualized entities that can be invoked, assembled, linked and managed to create dynamic services. NFV, by contrast, through its ETSI standardization group is focused exclusively on wireless networks but, in the process to release its first standard is still very incomplete in its architecture, interfaces and implementation.
SDN can or not comprise NFV elements and NFV can or not be governed or architected using SDN. Many of the Proof of Concepts (PoC) examined in this document are attempting to map SDN architecture and NFV functions in the hope to bridge the gap. Both frameworks can be complementary, but they are both suffering from growing pains and a diverging set of objectives.
The intent is to paint a picture of the state of SDN and NFV implementations in mobile networks. This report describes what has been trialed, deployed in labs, deployed commercially, what are the elements that are likely to be virtualized first, what are the timeframes, what are the strategies and the main players.