Last year, there were hopes that the two major groups aiming to set the standard for management and orchestration (MANO) of virtualized networks would converge. However, this looks less likely as the company with the greatest power to drive a rapprochement, Telefónica, has gone very quiet on the subject, and is pushing ahead with testing solutions based on its preferred would-be standard, ETSI’s Open Source MANO (OSM).
In the middle of 2018, the Spanish telco was dropping hints that it might also join the AT&T-initiated ONAP, hosted by the Linux Foundation, which would have been a big step towards the two groups defining ways to interoperate. Uncertainty over which route to take in the critical area of MANO, and fears of a technology dead end, are major factors in the slowdown of adoption of virtualized networks among telcos.
Telefónica was a major contributor of code to OSM and has put the technology at the heart of its ambitious virtualization program, Unica. Its latest step, which it has portrayed clearly as a continuing endorsement of OSM, is to complete testing and validation of the first virtualized infrastructure manager (VIM) for the huge project. It is using the Titanium Cloud offering from Wind River, formerly part of Intel, as the VIM for NFV (network functions virtualization) workloads, and this is fully compatible with OSM orchestration.
Wind River will not have the platform to itself – Telefónica is adopting a multi-VIM approach, reflecting the fact that, for many operators, a key goal of virtualization (and open source) is to create a multivendor ecosystem with no lock-ins. However, Titanium Cloud looks set to take a significant role. The telco has conducted a multiphase evaluation that included functional testing of the platform, as well as integration OSM.
Additionally, Telefónica is running use case trials, including testing virtual RAN on Titanium Cloud. Although vRAN has the potential to transform mobile operator economics more than any other virtualized network element, it is the most challenging to deploy and roll-outs are lagging well behind the expected timelines, with implications for the cost of early 5G – the first wave of 5G deployments are likely to be mainly based on conventional architectures, so operators will not start to reap the TCO benefits of vRAN until phase two.
Telefόnica’s Unica project is a vast one spanning many years, and its end goal is to create a reference architecture for network virtualisation based on ETSI NFV, which will then support full-scale transformation of the telco’s many fixed and mobile networks, in order to drive new service models and new economics.
The key elements of the reference architecture will be based on open source technology where possible and will include:
- a common NFV infrastructure (NFVi) to host any virtual network function (VNF) from any supplier
- the VIM, to manage the whole virtualized environment and the connectivity between the VNFs (which may be virtual machines or containers)
- management and orchestration (MANO) of the NFVi, and its associated VNFs and network services
- various interfaces for integration with external and legacy systems
- the SDN components to support a telco cloud implementation
- system-wide management of the entire infrastructure.
“After careful and comprehensive evaluation, Wind River Titanium Cloud stood out for its unique differentiators, such as extreme low latency and high reliability, to effectively meet the technical challenges that accompany telco cloud compute,” said Javier Gavilan, Telefónica’s director of core network, platforms and transport.