In the world of Mobile Telecoms, the year begins in Barcelona at the industry’s largest event: Mobile World Congress (MWC). This year’s event promises to be as thunderous and exciting as ever. In addition to the downpour of new handsets, tablets and other consumer devices on show, transport and network vendors will have some lightning of their own to display. A withering storm of LTE-A and small cell solutions will be howling around the RAN and backhaul people. A squall of Internet of Things buzz will capture passers-by in many a booth.
The fact that this year’s MWC will be opened by none other than the face of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, highlights the undeniable synergy between mobile and social. The front of OTT and social media is bearing down on mobile networks everywhere and this will surely be a theme running through the show. Two of the most interesting concepts will no doubt be gusting hot and heavy at the show: NFV and SDN with seismic repercussions on many regions of the industry.
Software Defined Networks or SDN, is a concept that has recently emerged from the data center and has been propagating its way outwards. SDN enables operators to program the network by separating the system that decides where traffic is sent (control plane) from the underlying systems that forward traffic (the data plane). This decoupling enables network operators unprecedented programmability, automation, and control, to build highly scalable, flexible networks that readily adapt to changing patterns in real time. It will also have significant impact on the TCO of networks.
NFV will also undoubtedly make an encore appearance next week. Networks today are essentially a complex collection of proprietary hardware appliances. For operators to launch new services, they need to coordinate the resource requirements, in addition to the complexity of integrating and deploying these appliances in a network. Dedicated appliances typically have a short lifespan, like an umbrella in the wind, as innovation continues to accelerate. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) aims to address obsolescence and cost-effective operation by creating standards that will consolidate many network equipment types onto commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers and switches.
The promise of SDN and NFV are as enormous as a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico and their impact cannot be understated. Some of what awaits…
Lower TCO, both CAPEX and OPEX (equipment costs, power consumption, and more)
Speedy deployment of new network services
Flexibility to scale up, scale down or evolve services
Operator control enabling the programming and re-programming of networks
Like all technological visions of the future (as well as the weather), there will undoubtedly be surprises along the way. The potential impact of both of these concepts is huge and they will surely making a grand showing at MWC this year.