In the IT world, the age of monolithic mainframe computers gave way to server farms at the turn of the century. However, the telecommunications industry is still hanging onto its own mainframes in the form of purpose-built network elements, such as firewalls, base stations and routers. We are on the verge of a dramatic shift where these elements will transform into software functions running on industry-standard servers, as is done in data centers.
Telecom Networks Today
Today’s networks are overly complex, partly due to an increasing variety of proprietary, fixed-function appliances that are unable to deliver the agility and economics needed to address constantly changing market requirements. This is because network elements have traditionally been optimized for high packet throughput at the expense of flexibility, thus hampering the development and deployment of new services. Another concern is that rapid advances in technology and services are accelerating the obsolescence of installed hardware; and in turn, hardware isn’t keeping up with other modes of feature evolution, which constrains innovation in a more network-centric, connected world.