Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Column: The promises of NFV within reach

by Daniel Proch, vice president of Product Management, Napatech

With so many new technologies vying for attention, it can be difficult for CISOs to know which ones merit attention. Will this solution save time? Will it make our organization more productive, or enable us to do things we couldn’t otherwise do? These questions need to be considered before adopting Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV).

What makes these technologies appealing is their ability to separate software from hardware, which eschews the vendor lock-in that has been the norm. So then, the main question is not about budget but about an organization’s ability to overcome the challenges of these methods so organizations can realize their full value.

At the time enterprises, mobile operators and data centers began building their own network infrastructure, they used the typical customized hardware and software offered on the market. Example applications include network gateways, switches, routers, network load balancers, varied mobile applications in the mobile core; radio access network such as vEPC (virtual evolved packet core), vCPE (virtual customer premise equipment) and vRAN (virtual Radio Access Network); and security applications like firewalls, NGFW, IDS/IPS, SSL/IPsec offload appliances, DLP and antivirus applications, to name just a few.

Instead of needing to purchase proprietary appliances to run each networking application, it is much more cost-efficient to support these functions as software applications, called virtualized network functions (VNFs), running on virtual machines or in containers on standard servers. That’s the idea behind NFV. Moving away from discrete, cus¬tomized architectures to a more consolidated “x86-only architecture” promises to reduce costs, simplify deployment and management of net¬working infrastructure, widen supplier choice and, ultimately, enable horizontal scale-out in the networking and security market.

It’s not a sure bet that the throughput and latency demands that today’s applications require can be handled by applications in software on standard platforms without allotting significant CPU resources to address the issue. Operators are realizing that the cost savings that NFV promises are offset by the need to deploy entire racks of compute resources at a problem that a single appliance could previously support. The CPU and server costs, rack space and power required to meet the same performance footprint of a dedicated solution end up being as expensive as or more than custom-designed alternatives. The vision of operational simplicity and dramatically lower total cost of ownership are still a dream on the horizon.

Aaaand…Along Comes 5G

As if the performance and scaling problems that operators face with generic NFV infrastructure (NFVi) weren’t enough to worry about, the presence of 5G networks will make these concerns worse. The move to 5G brings new requirements to mobile networks, creating its own version of hyperscale networking that is needed to meet the performance goals for the technology, but at the right economy of scale. Numerous factors are fundamentally unique to 5G networks when compared to previous 3G/4G instantiations of mobile protocols. The shorter the distance, the higher the frequency – thus, the more bandwidth that can be driven over the wireless network.

But wait – it gets worse. 5G will also mean a huge increase in the number of users/devices (both human and IoT), which fundamentally affects the number of unique flows in the network and necessitates very low latency requirements. 5G also promises lower energy and cost than previous mobile technologies. These 5G goals, when realized, will drive the application of wireless communications to completely new areas never seen before.

Rapid Scaling

If they are going to meet performance goals, network operators now see that they will need data plane acceleration based on FPGA-based SmartNICs in order to scale virtualized networking functions (VNFs). This technique offloads the x86 processors that are hosting the varied VNFs to support the breadth of services promised.

When SmartNIC acceleration supports virtual switching, this set-up has been shown to be the highest-performing and most secure method of deploying VNFs. Virtual machines (VMs) can use accelerated packet I/O and guaranteed traffic isolation via hardware while maintaining vSwitch functionality. FPGA-based SmartNICs specialize in the match/action processing required for vSwitches and can offload critical security processing, freeing up CPU resources for VNF applications.

Functions like filtering, intelligent load balancing, virtual switching, flow classification and encryption/decryption can all be performed in the SmartNIC and offloaded from the x86 processor housing the VNFs while, through technologies like VirtIO, be transparent to the VNF, providing a common management and orchestration layer to the network fabric.

A Novel Configuration

Network infrastructure has changed so dramatically and so much more is being asked of it that
organizations cannot operate with networking and security solutions that are expensive, hardened and fixed-function. The technique to overcome the challenges that are facing NFV deployments requires reconfigurable computing platforms based on standard servers capable of offloading and accelerating compute-intensive workloads, either in an inline or look-aside model to appropriately distribute workloads between x86 general-purpose processors and software-reconfigurable, FPGA-based SmartNICs optimized for virtualized environments.

The environment that results from combining low-cost server platforms and FPGA-based SmartNICs is one that enables huge throughput and support for many millions of simultaneous flows. CISOs that have struggled to implement NFV now have the option to use this novel framework, with the capabilities and the speed they need.

About the author

Daniel Proch is VP of product management at Napatech and has over 20 years’ experience in the IT and networking industry. Prior to joining Napatech in 2017, Daniel was Sr. director of product management and solutions architecture at Netronome. Prior to that he was manager of network solutions and principal engineer, office of the CTO at Ericsson. He has an MS in Information Science/Telecommunications from the University of Pittsburgh and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.

Next Gen Central Office - a panel discussion

Next Generation Central Office (NGCO) is a new reference architecture for fixed and mobile networks that applies hyperscale principles to servers, switches, storage and rack systems.

The panel is moderated by Roy Chua, Founder and Principal of AvidThink, formerly SDXCentral. Participants include Mike Yang, President of QCT; Paul Schultz, VP of Network Services Strategy and Solutions at KPG Co; and Dan Rodriguez, VP of Network Platforms Group, Intel.

Ericsson intros AI-based managed services

Ericsson launched an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based managed services offering for communications service providers.

The Ericsson Operations Engine is an end-to-end managed services operating model that reimagines network and IT operations, network design and optimization, and applications development and maintenance. It has three building blocks:

  • Service-centric business model based on business outcomes: Using AI, automation and data insights, the Ericsson Operations Engine addresses targeted business outcomes for service providers such as enhanced customer experience, revenue growth and efficiency.
  • End-to-end capabilities: delivering on business outcomes through AI-based design, planning and optimization, data-driven operations, dynamic deployment, applications development, and collaborative innovation.
  • Components: Best-in-class tools and processes that leverage data, AI and automation as well as expertise and investments in the service provider domain.

Peter Laurin, Senior Vice President, Head of Managed Services, Ericsson, says: “Networks are quickly becoming significantly more complex to operate as we introduce IoT and 5G at scale, and virtualize core networks, while aiming to enhance user experience at the same time. The Ericsson Operations Engine enables us to create sustainable differentiation for our managed services customers as it evolves operations from being network-centric to user experience-centric.  It fundamentally changes our way of operating networks from reactive to proactive, leveraging data, automation and artificial intelligence."

https://www.ericsson.com/en/press-releases/2019/1/new-ai-based-ericsson-operations-engine-makes-managed-services-simple

AT&T's Q4 wireless revenue dips 2.1% yoy

AT&T reported Q4 revenue of $48.0 billion versus $41.7 billion in the year-ago quarter, up 15.2%, primarily due to the Time Warner acquisition and partially offset by declines in legacy wireline services, wireless equipment, domestic video and Vrio.

"Our top priority for 2018 and 2019 is reducing our debt and I couldn’t be more pleased with how we closed the year. In 2018, we generated record free cash flow while investing at near-record levels. Our dividend payout as a percent of free cash flow was 46% for the quarter and 60% for the year, allowing us to increase the dividend for the 35th consecutive year,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T chairman and CEO. “This momentum will carry us into 2019 allowing us to continue reducing our debt while investing in the business and continuing our strong record for paying dividends."

Some highlights:

  • Total wireless revenues were $18.8 billion, down 2.1% year over year. On a comparable basis, revenues were down 0.6% due to a decline in equipment revenues, which was mostly offset by an increase in service revenues. 
  • Wireless service revenues of $13.9 billion were down 3.0% year over year due to accounting changes, or up 2.9% on a comparable basis, due to subscriber gains and pricing actions. 
  • Wireless equipment revenues increased 0.5% to $4.9 billion. On a comparable basis, equipment revenues were down 10.9% due to lower postpaid smartphone sales. 
  • Postpaid phone-only ARPU decreased 4.1% versus the year-earlier quarter. On a comparable basis, phone-only ARPU was up 3.0%.
  • In the fourth quarter, AT&T posted a net increase in total wireless subscribers 
  • Postpaid churn was 1.24%, up from 1.11% in the yearago quarter largely due to limited promotional activity. Postpaid phone churn was 1.00%, compared to 0.89% in the year-ago quarter. Branded churn was 1.82%, compared to 1.75% in the year-ago quarter.

  • Entertainment Group revenues were $12.0 billion, down 4.8% versus the year-earlier quarter, reflecting the impact of ASC 606 revenue recognition and declines in TV subscribers and legacy services. On a comparative
  • basis, excluding the impact of revenue recognition, revenues were down 3.0%.
  • Total video revenues were down mostly due to declines in linear TV subscribers partly offset by higher advertising sales.
  • Broadband revenues were up 6.4% due to an allocation adjustment for bundled discounts and higher revenue from fiber customers which was partially offset by legacy declines and simplified pricing.
  • Total video subscribers declined by 658,000 in the quarter. The Entertainment Group ended the quarter with 24.5 million total video subscribers 
  • The Entertainment Group lost 32,000 broadband subscribers in the fourth quarter.
  • The Entertainment Group had net adds of 6,000 IP broadband subscribers in the fourth quarter with DSL losses of 38,000. IP broadband subscribers benefited from the expansion of the fiber network and simplified pricing and,
  • at the end of the quarter, totaled 13.7 million. 
  • AT&T now markets its 100% fiber network to more than 11 million customer locations in parts of 84 metro areas. Broadband penetration in the fiber footprint continues to be significantly higher than in AT&T’s non-fiber footprint and is nearly 50% in locations marketed to for more than 30 months.

  • In Business Wireline, declines in legacy products were partially offset by growth in strategic business services. Total business wireline revenues were $6.7 billion, down 8.9% year over year, or down 4.2% on a comparable basis.
  • Strategic business services, the wireline capabilities that lead AT&T’s most advanced business solutions, continued to grow. Revenues grew by about $75 million on a comparable basis, versus the year-earlier quarter. On a comparable basis, these services represent 44% of total business wireline revenues and are an annualized revenue stream of more than $12 billion.

Farice plans new submarine cable from Iceland to Europe

Farice ehf, which operates two submarine cables to Iceland, is planning a new submarine cable to Europe with a likely landing site in the UK or Ireland. A new study involves selecting landing sites for the new submarine cable as well as project management for a seabed survey expected to take place in the year 2019.

Farice's existing submarine cables include FARICE-1 to UK and DANICE to Denmark. A third submarine cable Greenland-Connect connects Iceland to Canada and US.  The future cable would be the fourth cable connecting Iceland and increases further the security and resiliency of Iceland´s international telecommunications that are already of a high standard. 

Infinera expands its metro packet-optical portfolio

Infinera introduced a compact, high-density 1 rack unit (1RU) metro packet-optical platform for access and aggregation of diverse metro traffic types, including high-speed Ethernet and 10 Gbps and 100 Gbps WDM.

The new Infinera 7100 PSX-3S solution:

  • Minimizes footprint with 376 Gbps of packet switching capacity in a compact 1RU platform with 250-millimeter depth
  • Reduces space and power costs by eliminating 10 Gbps transponders for WDM transport over long distances
  • Accelerates service provisioning with zero-touch provisioning and built-in support for Ethernet service activation testing
  • Currently in customer trials and available for commercial deployment.


As part of the 7100 Series of packet-optical transport platforms, the 7100 PSX-3S leverages packet switching software capabilities deployed in leading Tier 1 carrier networks. The compact 7100 PSX-3S can be deployed as a standalone solution or as part of an integrated offering with the 7100 and mTera metro transport platforms, with end-to-end management and software-defined networking control enabled by the Infinera Transcend Software Suite.

“Traffic growth at the network edge continues to drive demand for more efficient and flexible metro transport solutions,” said Uwe Fischer, Senior Vice President, System Solutions Business Group, Infinera. “The 7100 PSX-3S is the latest addition to our comprehensive portfolio that spans the edge to the core of the metro network.”

https://www.infinera.com/products/7100-packet-optical-transport-solutions/


T-Mobile and Sprint promise Customer Experience Centers

Once their merger is complete, T-Mobile and Sprint will open five, new, state-of-the-art Customer Experience Centers around the United States. The facilities will offer T-Mobile’s Team of Experts (TEX) service, which provides customers with personalized support. The companies estimate each of these facilities will create an average of 1,000 new jobs.

The first of the five new facilities will be built in Overland Park, Kansas.

“The heroes who work in our Customer Experience Centers show customers every day why they chose the Un-carrier – and that will not change with the New T-Mobile. With these five new Centers, we’re going to give even more customers across the U.S. the rock star treatment they deserve!” said T-Mobile US Chief Executive Officer John Legere, who will lead New T-Mobile as CEO. “Choosing Overland Park as our first new Center site was a total no-brainer."

Geoffrey Starks sworn in as FCC Commissioner

Geoffrey Starks was sworn in as FCC Commissioner.

Starks previously served as assistant bureau chief for the FCC's Enforcement division. Before that, he served at the Department of Justice as a senior counsel to Deputy Attorney General Jim Cole. He has a JD from Yale Law School.

Commissioner Starks issued the following statement: “I am deeply honored to serve as a Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, and I thank the President and the United States Senate for this exceptional privilege.  As the last few weeks have affirmed, being a public servant is a calling to serve a mission bigger than yourself.  Throughout my career, I have focused on protecting the most vulnerable and holding wrongdoers accountable."

ADVA's compact cell site gateway gains MEF 3.0 CE certification

ADVA's FSP 150-GO102Pro Series is among the first technologies to receive MEF 3.0 CE certification. Compliance with the new specification demonstrates that ADVA’s Carrier Ethernet (CE) and IP service demarcation solution supports the transformation to automated networking and can be used to build 5G-ready architectures.

ADVA's compact cell site gateway device, which was introduced in December, provides Carrier Ethernet and IP service demarcation for small cells deployed outdoors in locations such as walls or lampposts. The FSP 150-GO102Pro, which is billed as the world’s smallest cell site gateway device, delivers precise time and frequency synchronization. It features automated testing and in-service monitoring and is available in two sizes. A hardened housing is sealed against water, moisture, and dust.

“Congratulations to ADVA on the landmark achievement of MEF 3.0 CE certification, which specifies the highest industry standards for performance and assurance. Attaining this certification demonstrates not only that ADVA’s compact network edge technology complies with MEF 3.0 CE E-Line and Access E-Line standards but also that it’s optimized for automation, virtualization and interoperability,” said Pascal Menezes, CTO, MEF. “With our MEF 3.0 program, we’re certifying a new class of technology designed to support dynamic services across automated networks and to pave the way for application-aware, self-organizing networks.”

“Today’s service providers need to adapt and keep pace with the rapidly evolving digital economy. They must be free from the constraints of time-consuming manual processes and static connectivity. Our MEF 3.0 CE-certified FSP 150-GO102Pro Series, opens the door to a new world of dynamic, programmable networking,” commented Zeev Draer, VP, global business development, edge solutions, ADVA. “MEF 3.0’s holistic approach to lifecycle service orchestration exactly matches our vision for turning networks into open service production factories. What’s more, MEF 3.0 is about minimizing proprietary, vertically integrated solutions and enabling operators to embrace the benefits of open API initiatives. We’re also committed to openness and flexibility and have engineered our edge solutions for maximum interope

Fujitsu Expands IoT platform for utilities with ClearWorld and GreenStar

Fujitsu Network Communications has expanded its Internet of Things (IoT) technology platform for smart utility applications by adding ClearWorld and GreenStar as ecosystem partners.

Fujitsu is empowering utilities and communities with utility solutions including GreenStar world-class LED-based luminaires and ClearWorld solar energy systems in a complete IoT platform.

“Digital transformation, renewable energy and carbon reduction offer both challenges and opportunities for tomorrow’s energy sector. Fujitsu and our partners deliver the expertise, support and efficiencies to enable utilities to be at the forefront of these trends for maximum advantage,” said Robert Worden, North America practice leader, Smart Cities/IoT at Fujitsu Network Communications. “Utilities and other network operators rely on Fujitsu as their full-service integration partner to understand their needs and co-create a complete, cost-effective solution that makes every step the right step, from beginning to end, and beyond.”

“We have the ability to provide the foundation for every smart city with resilient and renewable solar power and battery storage, mounted on existing or new light poles,” said Larry Tittle, founder and chief executive officer at ClearWorld. “Our off-grid application can save up to 70 percent in energy costs, offering long-distance back-up power for critical infrastructure and municipalities.”

“We are proud to be an American manufacturer of high-quality LED luminaires,” said James McVey, director of sales and marketing at GreenStar. “With over one million luminaires installed around the globe, GreenStar has become a brand that is recognized for its quality and durability.”

See also