The NFV and Software Telco Movement

The NFV hype is omnipresent.

Last month I had the opportunity of presenting at the Software Telco Congress show in Las Vegas held at the Rio. The show is a semi-annual opportunity for the movers and shakers in the software telco movement to come together and discuss the latest trends and innovations, as well as review the progress that has been made in the last six months in the areas of NFV, SDN, and the over-arching objective of moving telco off of hardware and into software.

This week my colleague Ryan Higgins will be presenting on the Cloud and NFV: Carrier VoIP Business Model Transformation Showdown session at the IIT RTC Conference in Chicago.

Is it hype or is there substance?

At Alianza, we’re big supporters of the NFV movement and believe it is the only way to deliver telecommunications services in a way that is not only reliable and stable but also agile, flexible, and innovative. Plus it allows us to deliver it all at a much lower price point than hardware solutions could ever dream of. In fact, our complete Alianza platform has been over 90% software from the beginning, which has allowed us to lead the pack in availability, scalability, and features.

My presentation at the Software Telco Congress show focused on the ability of a cloud provider, like Alianza, to deliver telecommunications features to service providers in a reliable and elastic manner (easily scales up or down to meet demand), but also in a way that removes the risk from the service provider and dramatically lowers their overall cost to offer voice services. NFV is a starting point for the evolution of the network guts, but business model transformation is needed too. Ryan’s presentation will dive deeper into that notion.

With the Alianza Cloud Voice Platform, a service provider has no upfront CAPEX costs (no hardware to purchase), no additional OPEX (no expensive engineers to hire), and only pays for what they use: success-based SaaS model at its finest. The net result is a competitive price point that is typically much less than what a service provider would pay to do it themselves.

We still see many service providers in the industry feeling like a voice platform is something they need to build in-house. This sentiment was understandable ten, and even five years ago, but now, with the general acceptance that outsourcing to the cloud is a superior business model, there is no reason for a service provider to re-invent the wheel and go it alone (see our whitepaper: Service Provider VoIP – Next Gen is the Cloud). We view this as a hosted NFV approach to VoIP.

Hot topics at the show included virtualization, with a definite trend towards moving everything, including soft-switches, databases, and even media servers onto virtual machines. Network routers and switches, and even SBCs, are becoming more and more viable candidates for running in software on top of COTS (Commodity Off the Shelf) hardware. Alianza has been running the majority of its infrastructure inside virtual machines for years but only recently has the technology been available to move and manage all these virtual machines into the cloud running a cloud-based software like OpenStack. Alianza is also moving aggressively down the path of moving the last few remaining pieces of our platform that are still in hardware into software.

Another much-talked-about technology at the show was SDN (Software Defined Networking). SDN makes it possible to separate the network control plane from the data plane. This advancement makes networking not only extremely flexible and automated but also allows you to run what has traditionally been an operating system on the firmware of a router or switch inside of software running either on COTS hardware or on a different virtualized server in a completely different data center. At Alianza, we’re excited about SDN. We’re excited about the flexibility it provides to run our networking infrastructure on COTS hardware as well as make all of it fully automated. With automation, we can quickly and easily spin up and spin down additional capacity as needed without engineers spending hours or sometimes days configuring hardware.

You’ll see some announcements from Alianza in the coming months on all these fronts as we take our cloud-based offering to the next level. We expect to continue our innovative leadership in all these areas and help move the industry forward towards truly software telco.