ETSI looks to standardise virtualisation

Standards body and industry specification group ETSI is to develop an architecture for the virtualisation of various functions within telecoms networks.

The undertaking has been initiated by seven leading operators; AT&T, BT, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telecom Italia, Telefónica and Verizon; which have been joined by 52 other network operators, telecoms equipment vendors, IT vendors and technology providers to create the ETSI Industry Specification Group (ISG) for Network Functions Virtualization.

The first meeting of the group took place last January in Sophia Antipolis, France.

Telecoms networks typically contain a variety of proprietary hardware solutions that have grown in number over time as new network services often require the additional kit. Finding the space and power to accommodate these boxes is becoming increasingly difficult, ETSI said, as is the integration and deployment of these appliances in the network.

Meanwhile hardware life-cycles are becoming shorter as innovation accelerates, reducing the return on investment of deploying new services and constraining innovation.

Virtualisation of network functions aims to address these problems by evolving standard technology to consolidate many network equipment types onto high volume servers, switches and storage essentially running the virtual applications on commodity hardware.

The task involves implementing network functions in software that can run on a range of industry standard server hardware, and that can be moved to, or instantiated in, various locations in the network as required, without the need to install new equipment.

Potential benefits include reduced operator CAPEX and OPEX; reduced time-to-market; improved return on investment from new services; greater flexibility to scale up, scale down or evolve services; openness to the virtual appliance market and pure software entrants; and opportunities to trial and deploy new services at lower risk.

The initiative will incorporate existing virtualisation technologies and existing standards as appropriate and will co-ordinate with ongoing work in other standards committees. The first specifications are expected before the end of 2013.

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  1. Avatar Mark Windle 24/01/2013 @ 2:47 pm

    This initiative makes great sense. OpenCloud has long been a proponent of building a Cloud for Telecoms.

    However, the virtualisation of network functions is only a part of the story if operators want to innovate more competitively. The article talks about “proprietary hardware” as a barrier, but “proprietary software” can be just as bad. A more complete, more effective solution requires the network software to be truly open, enabling further innovation by the operators themselves and/or by free-market independent third parties – breaking away from the model where the solution vendor has a monopoly on implementing new functionality.

    • Avatar #KYSBCS 26/01/2013 @ 12:22 am

      That’s a fair comment. From what I understand, the gang-of-13 believe that other initiatives, like SDN, should drive the open API’s that would make individual software applications network agnostic. Indeed, they refer to the automation of management and orchestration as being paramount to the success of the NFV initiative (ref. the white paper and

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