The introduction and development of cloud-based concepts into the IT data center industry has been very rapid over recent years. In parallel, the associated ecosystem and business models have changed fundamentally. IT cloud economy-of-scale benefits and the overall value proposition derived from shared data center resources and “pay-as-you-go” business models are also potentially valid for telecom networks.
However, in the telecom domain, network elements are traditionally assembled in a heterogeneous way with many different equipment architectures and vendors right through the network. This network architecture has evolved by necessity, owing to carrier-grade requirements such as real-time performance and high availability. Mainstream industry adoption and deployment of cloud telecoms will be hindered, or even blocked, until carrier grade telecom requirements have been fully proven on the key technologies underpinning the cloud Telecoms concept, namely Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), Software Defined Networking (SDN), and deployment on industry-standard, high-volume servers.
Virtualization promises freedom of deployment for various functionalities in an open, standardized environment. When introduced in a telecom context, the critical success factors are performance, latency, and standardized management interfaces.
SDN is an approach to building networks that accomplishes the following: separates the control and data planes, provides a global view of the network to a centralized controller, and enables external applications to program the network. It also promises freedom of connectivity on a number of different levels in the network infrastructure. For example, the same management concepts can be applied to connectivity functions (for example, on network, element, blade, and chip levels). SDN can be seen as a complementary technology to virtualization and is potentially well suited for a network-enabled cloud and improving network resource utilization on the link level.