Certainly, enterprises feel the pressure to transition their networks to next generation architectures like SDN to brace the coming storm that is an app economy. Service providers could provide valuable advice to them on how to do that, if they could yell loud enough over the thunderous roar of millions of devices being activated and apps being downloaded that continues to put pressure on them to scale out their networks.
And scale out they must if they are going to continue to keep up with all those apps (they're the ones that deliver a goodly percentage of the traffic from those mobile apps enterprises keep building) and simultaneously increase their revenues.
That's a daunting task. Consider this (very small) chart based on the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Wireless Matrix. On the left is the average revenue per user (ARPU) for mobile operators across the globe. On the right, the year over year growth.
You might notice that for much of the chart on the right, those numbers appear to be negative. That's because they are. And the reason they are is because the cost to scale and operate mobile networks under current conditions is often prohibitive. If we paid rates commensurate with what it takes these underappreciated operators to provide us service, well, we'd be paying a lot more than we are.
That's why service providers are frenetically looking to consolidation and future architectures like SDN/NFV. Both offer paths to reduce operating and capital expenses while simultaneously offering opportunities to monetize their network to help offset those costs.
“Service providers are going through a fundamental architectural shift to SDN and NFV, which increases the importance of automating the scalability, security, virtualization, and programmability of their networks. In our view, F5 is the first in the industry to focus this shift on the mobile broadband segment across the data, signaling, and application planes, with the aim of helping providers with flexible scaling and rapid service introductions. We believe that service providers will want to look at how F5 software can help them develop new service and business models that will increase their ability to monetize mobile broadband.”
Since then, we've been executing on that vision and service providers have been taking advantage of the opportunity to standardize on a common, intelligent service delivery platform to execute on critical S/Gi network consolidation efforts:
“S/Gi network consolidation, intelligent traffic steering and service chaining with application and subscriber awareness” on F5 BIG-IP platform are key aspects to scale and monetize LTE networks, while allowing smooth migration to SDN/NFV architectures" -- Vic McClelland, Managing Director of Networks, Optus.
While it's inarguable a boon to be able to reduce TCO of a simplified S/Gi network by 36% with F5, just as important is the ability to carry that momentum forward into SDN/NFV implementations. SDN/NFV provide additional opportunities to reduce costs through automation and orchestration S/Gi network and value added services (VAS)
The Path to NFV Nirvana
F5 Synthesis enables this transition because of its ability to fulfill the four key pillars of an NFV architecture: orchestration, virtualization, abstraction and programmability.
Service providers can initially deploy F5 Synthesis to address S/Gi network consolidation needs and then smoothly transition to a focus on adopting an SDN/NFV architecture.
First, providers should look to consolidating and simplifying services within the S/Gi portion of the network on a standardized platform. There are many advanced content and subscriber-based services that are currently implemented, creating a complex and difficult to manage network. With a subscriber and application-aware platform, they can also add VAS steering to solutions such as CDN, video optimization and security services that require intelligent service chaining.
Next, all of these services can be virtualized. The virtualization and abstraction of these services enables the virtualization of the EPC. An intelligent orchestration engine enables the dynamic policy management and flexible traffic management based on real-time conditions.
Once the S/Gi network has been virtualized, orchestration can envelope the control plane where the S/Gi services interact with internal elements such as the PCRF, HSS and IMS through Diameter and SIP interfaces.
The virtualization of RAN and other core components enables NFV technologies to access key analytical data to create truly dynamic and flexible orchestration policies that enable the network to automatically adapt due to congestion, specific traffic patterns, and expectations with subscriber and application policy management. The SP network has now become a truly dynamic, flexible, and automated self adapting ecosystem.
THE FOUR PHASES to NFV NIRVANA
F5 Synthesis specifically addresses today's most pressing needs for service providers by enabling S/Gi simplification and consolidation as well as enabling a path forward to the architectures service providers will need tomorrow to continue to scale both their networks and their business.