A telco cloud represents the data center resources that are required to deploy and manage a mobile phone network with data transfer capabilities by carrier companies in production operations at scale. Telco clouds have traditionally been based in private data center facilities which are used to manage the telecommunication requirements of 3G/4G and LTE networks. With the current roll-out of 5G equipment across the mobile service provider community internationally, vendors have adopted strategies related to network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined data center (SDDC) management. This makes the deployment of required operating software to carriers more efficient.
The inherent advantages of VMware’s cloud orchestration software platforms which include vSphere, the ESXi hypervisor, NSX distributed firewalls, and other products are all combined into the vCloud NFV suite. These products streamline 5G mobile data network installation for telco cloud requirements. Network function virtualization (NFV) greatly accelerates the speed at which 5G networks carriers can launch, as well as reducing the number of trained staff needed for deployment. Accordingly, many experts now consider NFV and SDN to be key characteristics of the telco cloud by definition.
NFV uses virtualization for data center operations and enables telecommunication companies to easily install infrastructure as code on vendor-agnostic hardware facilities. Software-defined networking (SDN) standards allow telco carriers to adopt hybrid or multi-cloud approaches to 5G systems deployment, challenging the traditional private cloud model of mobile telecommunication providers.
VMware’s vCloud NFV suite includes all of the SDDC tools and utilities that have become industry standard around the world as a complete package for telco cloud orchestration. With virtual network functions (VNFs), entire data centers can be scripted in pre-defined patterns of technical operation that can be deployed through infrastructure-as-code paradigms including all of the needed software for complex mobile operations such as 5G pre-installed. In comparison with traditional manners of data center deployment, vendors now bundle autonomous and self-operating systems with NFV. These can be deployed with a small fraction of the time and trained manpower previously required for telecommunications service providers (TSPs) to set up these facilities.
In the contemporary telco landscape, there are thousands of independent mobile telecommunications companies operating internationally across every local geographic market. Each country has their own laws and regulations concerning mobile communications that includes spectrum and frequency licensing for different bandwidths related to wireless broadcast technology like LTE, 3G/4G/5G, WIFI, Bluetooth, radio stations, TV, etc. Each of the spectrum frequencies are related to classes of consumer and industrial devices like mobile phones, routers, IoT, satellites, microwaves, radios, pagers, etc. In the past, tech giants like AT&T or State-run telephone companies had a near monopoly status like public utilities and developed most of their own IT software for data centers internally through large teams of programmers working under Waterfall and Spiral methodologies. Currently, there are many TSPs in strong competition in every local or regional market that are reliant on third-party vendors for networking equipment and software for their mobile telecommunication operations.
Mobile telecommunication equipment suppliers innovate globally at a faster pace than local communication service providers (CSPs) through independent research and development. Then they sell their technology to multiple TSPs in parallel as an industry standard related to the frequency or spectrum required for new platform support. Software development companies offer CSPs operating software for their networking and mobile telecommunications equipment at different prices with a variety of features, utilities, and security functions that differentiate product lines. In this context, many contemporary CSPs have adopted reliance on network function virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) under Agile project management methodologies to speed the time of bringing new technologies to market at lower costs through the integrated deployment of complete data center operating templates using packaged proprietary software bundled for use with VMware’s vCloud NFV suite.
Both mobile networking hardware providers like 5G equipment manufacturers and mobile telephony software development companies can package their products with VMware’s cloud data center orchestration tools to distribute as complete solutions for CSPs in regional markets internationally. The level of operational standardization enabled by NFV and the inherent benefits of virtualization when combined with infrastructure-as-code methodologies is a tested and proven method for TSPs to deploy new technologies across all regions of service according to the demands of scale while saving money on data center networking costs. vCloud NFV allows international vendors to bundle their software with VMware’s data center orchestration software as a complete solution that can then be trained by integrator companies or telco staff for implementation as mobile telephony.
Cisco Enterprise NFV Open Ecosystem has a list of qualified VNF vendors and the VMware Solution Exchange has a number of featured telco-NFV partners that can be referenced by company managers when searching for solutions providers. Matched solutions work directly with hardware vendors for 5G equipment like Cisco, Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, Radisys, ZTE, and others. This simplifies the purchasing, training, and implementation process for regional TSPs that need to make major investments for new equipment and data center management software in advance of the 5G roll-out. Matched solutions are the premier source of 3G/4G/5G and LTE platforms for TSPs internationally, integrating with both VMware vCloud NSX and OpenStack Carrier Edition. VMware matched solutions for NFV include thousands of third-party utilities for network security, monitoring, analytics, billing, and other functionality required by CSPs for operations. This results in total cost of ownership (TCO) reduction across multi-vendor service deployments, lower cost for software platform acquisition, quicker times in bringing new technology to market, and better ROI for TSPs.
In mobile telecommunications, the speed at which companies roll out new technological services makes a huge difference in establishing regional success for a brand and being first to market with a new technological standard like 3G/4G/5G can lead to large inflows of new customers at higher rates for service. Since most TSPs internationally are no longer doing the research and development for their hardware and software internally, but rather buying it on the open marketplace from vendors on competitive foundations, the technical challenge is in training local staff for data center operations.
VMware vCloud NFV has been adopted widely across the mobile telecommunications industry because it simplifies the platform roll-out and operational procedures for required telephony software using SDDC tools that are widely recognized and trained in by IT professionals worldwide. In telco data centers where OpenStack is used for private cloud orchestration, VMware also offers the Integrated OpenStack Carrier Edition. This distribution of OpenStack allows CSPs to speed up their software and hardware deployments using NFV technology in the same manner as vCloud.
VMware vCloud NFV and OpenStack Carrier Edition make it easier for TSPs to roll out complete working data center operations in support for new technology standards like 5G. These platforms are already in extensive use in the industry with major telecommunication brands worldwide where they are used to manage 3G, 4G, and LTE operations in production.
Both vCloud NFV and OpenStack Carrier Edition support a large ecosystem of third-party developer companies that offer complete software packages that are pre-scripted under infrastructure-as-code methodologies to install in hours or days on-premises rather than months. Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) are proprietary and purchased from third-party development companies as modular plugins for installation within VMware’s SDDC and NFV products for cloud orchestration.
TSPs choose VMware software for their data centers not only because of the advantages of NFV options, but because VM-driven architecture has so many other performance, security, and analytics advantages. The NSX-T Managed Virtual Distributed Switch can be used in Enhanced Data Path mode by TSPs to improve existing network operations significantly through speed, congestion, and bandwidth optimization while reducing costs on switch and router licensing costs over other third-party vendors.
VMware has announced prioritized company support for telco cloud solutions as a sector, making vCloud NFV and OpenStack Carrier Edition signature flagship products. Only a few public cloud service companies like Google, Microsoft, and AWS have larger data center infrastructure requirements than the mobile telecommunications service providers. VMware works with AT&T using VeloCloud’s SD-WAN and AirWatch. They also work with other major communication service providers like Sprint, NTT, Telstra, and Vodaphone in creating advanced roll-out packages for 5G data centers. Hardware and software partners for the 5G rollout on NFV include Accenture, Dell, Ericsson, HCL, IBM, Intel, Nokia, and Tech Mahindra. There are thousands of other companies offering third-party software development services for 5G and mobile telecommunications in the VMware vendor marketplace or as licensed contractors and integrators. A software-defined private cloud architecture positions TSPs at the cutting edge of IT research with access to the latest products from the world’s premiere technology vendors. VMware recently purchased the startup company Uhana to introduce more innovative data center management features for telco clouds based around AI/ML solutions.