IBM helping China Mobile pilot Network Function Virtualization prototype
Editor’s note: This article
is by Yong Hua Lin, Senior Technical Staff Member and Senior Manager for Cloud
Infrastructure and Technology at IBM Research.
In 2011, China
Mobile and IBM Research worked together to give telco a wireless
cloud overhaul. Now, they’re collaborating again to use the cloud to move
telco to a standardized IT infrastructure – versus today’s jumble of
proprietary network equipment. And their first prototype will be demonstrated
at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona,
Spain at the end of the month.
The two companies are experimenting with a Network
Function Virtualization (NFV) cloud prototype that can encapsulate the
proprietary equipment built for different network functions. It works by consolidating specialized network
equipment onto servers, storage and switches – translating network functions, such
as connecting a smartphone to the Internet, into an optimized cloud platform. To do this, we used software define environment (SDE) technologies to provide agility, flexibility and programmability to the
cloud infrastructure which greatly sped up the build out of this prototype.
telecommunications face an overwhelming influx of data via smart mobile devices
(which is difficult and expensive to manage), while also facing shrinking
profits from traditional voice calls. Consolidating disparate telco tech on the
cloud would improve network efficiency because powerful servers can handle the
data with much higher elastic capability to meet the
growing complexity requirements; lowers
cost by using less equipment that is simpler and faster for service innovation and productization; and adds features such as service availability
management, disaster recovery management, and better user analytics.
The teams will also demo eMAP, and IBM’s iTrans
voice recognition service at MWC as examples of mobile apps running on the
NFV cloud prototype.
The prototype – a mini
network built in the lab – currently uses IBM’s Power 7+, IBM OpenStack, and China Mobile’s LTE network functions. And so far, the results are promising. The cloud platform could ensure the real-time performance required by
TD-LTE, support the elastic autoscale for network function, deliver the high
availability as a service, and provide automatic deployment for new
The cloud architecture could easily enable the coordinated
joint processing for an LTE access network. Based on this, China Mobile could potentially provide a 70 percent
throughput improvement across their network. Plus, their operators will be able to offer
more intelligent mobile services over the SDE enabled cloud.
With their mobile
infrastructure virtualized and managed on the cloud, China Mobile could create
a virtual appliance market to software companies, big and small. This encouragement
of innovation promises to bring new services and new revenue streams into telco
– an industry long thought left to inflexible hardware, unable to adapt to
today’s fast-moving, mobile-driven, data-intense communication.
Labels: China Mobile, cloud computing, mobile, mobile world congress, telco