Alcatel-Lucent announces first virtualised network functions

Alcatel-Lucent announces plans for first virtualised network functions, announces CloudBand NFV platform deployed on Red Hat OpenStack technology.

Alcatel-Lucent has said that the first elements of its virtualised network function portfolio will be vEPC, vIMS and vRNC functions. The company is also developing a proof of concept for a virtualised BBU (Baseband Unit) to be used in LTE Cloud RAN deployments.

The vendor announced that it has trials of virtualised IMS and EPC functions in place with Deutsche Telekom and with China Mobile (vRNC), among a number of other operator trials and commitments. The vBBU is a proof of concept product at the moment. Demos of the VNFs will be showing at Mobile World Congress.

The virtualised network functions will be available on Alcatel-Lucent’s integrated cloud platform, CloudBand, which itself is integrated with the SDN capabilities of Alcatel-Lucent’s Nuage solution.

Phil Tilley, Alcatel-Lucent’s Marketing Director of Cloud Strategy & Solutions, said that although Alcatel-Lucent has developed CloudBand as its integrated solution, the vendor is committed to openness – enabling flexibility of deployment for operators. Its CloudBand platform is based on open source OpenStack technology from Red Hat, and Alcatel-Lucent is a major contributor to ETSI’s NFV Fourm.

Tilley said, “We really think of ourselves as best placed for the transition to the new mode of operation of NFV. It’s not just a case of giving everything a brush across with NFV – we are fully engaged in the ETSI groups as a major contributor to that and are working a number of proof of concepts and trials in this area.”

Deploying on Red Hat’s OpenStack platform meant that Alcatel-Lucent can offer an integrated and an open solution, Tilley said.

“Although we are announcing these all together, we fully embrace the fact that an operator might have our vECP with someone elses’ vIMS on someone else’s virtualisation platform. Each element stands alone in its own right. We know that having our own NFV and own platform allows us to go with everything and test and advance that NFV innovation together. But we are more than happy and willing to have a VNF on someone else’s NFV platform.”

Cloud performance
The distributed nature of virtualised functions compared to enterprise cloud deployments, means that service performance, latency, orchestration and control will be critical, Tilley said.

“A lot of what we are doing is working with partners is to optimise performance of functions and of the systems, so for sure we’re on a journey here. One of the challenges of an open system and environment is that it is easy to lose control of the critical part which is latency. That’s why we work with operators on proof of concepts and trials and work with other parties to develop as and when required. You will hear another couple of announcements on partnerships in this area soon.”

Neither Alcatel-Lucent nor Nuage is keeping back any secret sauce. That alleviates the concern that NFV might just be moving telcos from one jail to another

Red Hat
Alongside its NFV strategy announcement, Alcatel-Lucent also announced that it is using Red Hat’s OpenStack-based platform to provide the basis for its integrated NFV solution CloudBand. It will deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform, based on Enterprise Linux and Kernel-based Virtual Machine (KVM), as the common platform for CloudBand.

Radhesh Balakrishnan, general manager for virtualisation and OpenStack at Red Hat, said that the open source nature of the platform, with stable and “clean” APIs for platform integration, would provide a consistent environment for customers.

“We work with customers to prioritise a core set of features, but make sure those are available collectively upstream. Neither Alcatel-Lucent nor Nuage is keeping back any secret sauce. That alleviates the concern that NFV might just be moving telcos from one jail to another.”

Balakrishnan said that working with RedHat meant that Alcatel-Lucent would be able to “innovate in an open way to meet their needs and customer needs” as well as “shave oodles of dollars from the customer environment”.

“The magic attraction here is to flex the number of virtual machines and compute capacity, to spike up and down as your service onboarding needs change. The first building block is to run a virtual machine – where Red Hat Enterprise Linux comes into being – so you have a container to run this application.The second level is to be able to manage this infrastructure, to onboard these workloads and take them off – that’s where OpenStack comes in.

Balakrishnan said that the CloudBand node also builds on the previously announced partnership between Red Hat and (Alcatel-Lucent’s) Nuage Networks, to provide a single stack that includes Nuage SDN, Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform, virtual storage and management tools.

“We can’t dictate which SDN provider customers go to. We’re a member of OpenDaylight, which is all about getting to a fully open controller. The reality is that as an organisation Re dHat is evolving from an OS and middleware company to owning the datacentre fabric platform – which is OpenStack. We won’t be going and becoming functional experts too deeply, we take more of a partnering approach. We see SDN as separate as well as specific to telco NFV, but we do have interests in both and our approach is to be a platform provider on both sides of the equation and have partners on both sides.”