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Virtualisation in telecommunications

VMware’s annual CIO Forum this year, sees the virtualisation company start to share their thinking behind new technologies like the Internet of Things and 5G, and how they are trying to modernise the underlying industry which powers these two technologies – telecommunications.

According to VMWare APAC CTO, Bruce Davie, virtualisation can really help the telco industry become more efficient and agile. “Hardware boxes are ripe for virtualisation,” he said.

The catch however is that a majority of telcos today, have multi-million dollar businesses running on existing infrastructure.

“They are usually unwilling to disrupt their revenue stream by implementing what might seem like relatively new technology to them,” he observed.

That said, Davie views the roll out of 5th generation of cellular communication technology, 5G, as an opportunity to insert virtualisation technologies into networks. Telcos already see that virtualising the telco system environment can bring benefits of cost effectiveness and faster service delivery, and there are global telcos who are even already testing the use of virtualisation in their systems.

VMWare boasts 50 communications service providers who use NFV based on VMware’s technologies, and Davie stated, “Vodafone has virtualised some of their network functions and standardised it on VMware’s platform.”

The 5G opportunity

With the onset of 5G communications; some say commercialisation would start 2019 while mass adoption would be some years after that; there is real opportunity to insert virtualisation-based NFV technologies when bringing in 5G equipment to deploy new radio access networks (RAN).

“Imagine a virtualisation layer, on top which you can run apps like Evolved Packet Core or EPC for 4G, and so on, with a management layer at the side,” Davie said. “NFV on 4G is already being done.”

Virtualising network functions, or NFV, is one popular way of introducing virtualisation into the telco environment, because it allows use of commodity servers instead of more expensive specialised network equipment. Fifth generation cellular technology is also seen as a pathway to being more innovative.

“Telco networks have a huge opportunity to modernise like the enterprise segment,” Davie said adding that on average only 10-percent of telco industry hardware has been virtualised.

Edge computing

Then there is the recent focus being placed on edge computing because of the rise of Internet of Things (IoT). Davie said, “Computing is swinging back to the edge. There is real need for local compute (on edge devices) to do highly advanced IoT apps processing to enable quick decision making.”

The IoT trend is driven by the fact that it’s very inexpensive to collect data from any connected object, and chap compute and cheap wireless connectivity technology.

Davie observed that how bandwidth would scale with 5G, depends very much on the spectrum being used as well as backhaul connectivity.

“5G will make it very cost-effective to do more with IoT,” he said in conclusion.

VMware had acquired VeloCloud last year, with the intention of using its SD-WAN technology to extend the network layer right up to the edge.

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