Are CNFs, VNFs?

The answer is yes. Our recent report “ The VNFO – Ripe for Change ” says this loudly and clearly. Pardon the atrocious image. But I hope it encapsulates the dilemma appropriately. It is important to reiterate the reasons for including containers under VNF and in essence, Kubernetes under VNFO. Both VMs and containers are virtualization methodologies. Thus, network functions synthesized using VMs and containers qualify as VNFs. In VNFs orchestrated by containers are sometimes referred to as cloud-native NFs (CNFs). Insight Research has also employed this term as early as 2020. Over time however, we have observed that the usage of CNFs is neither consistent nor uniform. Most ‘traditional’ MANOs such as ONAP, OSM and all proprietary offerings now support containers and Kubernetes. Containers are thus one more means towards achieving the end-objective of VNFs. In such situations, Insight Research finds it more appropriate to use VNF as an umbrella term and under this term, refer to VM or c

Future of 5G Core – Putting it in Numbers

What does the future portend for 5G Core? In our previous blog, we examined the barriers to 5G acceptance. We will now see how the numbers stack up for 5GC vis-à-vis EPC. Figure below is excerpted from our latest report Virtual Core – Gateway to the “Real 5G” . The figure shows the market share progression during 2021-2026 for EPC and 5GC. Market Share Progression for the Overall Virtualized Core; by Generation 2021-2026 (%) Source: Insight Research As 5G radios increasingly become the norm, the terms EPC and 5G Core will be used interchangeably with the NSA and SA modes. Expectedly, the market for 5G core will outpace the EPC market. The most obvious barrier for 5G core acceptance is pricing. Reportedly, for a comparable user base, the 5G core is costlier by a substantial factor with premium estimates ranging from 50% upward. This is a compellingly steep barrier for many carriers whose ROI from 4G EPC is unfulfilled to date. 4G EPC is also able to address the most immediate user exper

What ails 5G-SA?

  Our recent report  “Virtual Core – Gateway to the “Real 5G” ; brought out one thing very clearly -  5G SA is clearly taking longer than anticipated.  The reasons are many – telco ennui with the constant architectural flux without commensurate returns being the main one. Telcos have had their fingers burnt with the seemingly never-ending development cycle of a reliable and acceptable MANO. If the MANO experience is a sobering reality check for telcos, they did not lose hope. In came containers and microservices, with a ready-to-deploy orchestrator in form of Kubernetes. Notwithstanding all the challenges surrounding the implementation of containers in performance-intense and latency sensitive network function like the mobile core; the value proposition of containers is beyond doubt – and this was established close to the end of last decade. Containers are therefore no longer the reason for telco reluctance in embracing the SA mode, which lends itself elegantly to SBA. What is the

Stakes are high for SD-WAN - Airtel invests in Lavelle Networks

Yesterday,  Airtel acquired a 25 percent stake in SD-WAN specialist Lavelle Networks . Let us try to make sense of this development and answer a few questions. What does it mean for Airtel? What’s in it for Lavelle Networks? Why SD-WAN? Lavelle Networks has developed SD-WAN suite based on its indigenous ScaleOn network architecture. The company offers a controller, edge port and gateway to complete its SD-WAN portfolio. What is SD-WAN? SD-WAN is a use case of software defined networks (SDN). SDN decouples the network control and forwarding functions enabling the network control to become directly programmable and the underlying infrastructure to be abstracted for applications and network services. SD-WAN, as the term suggests, refers to the application of the SDN paradigm to WANs. SD-WAN is many a time used interchangeably with bandwidth on demand (BoD). While BoD caters to specific requirements of bandwidth provisioning, SD-WAN deals with the network at a more fundamental, des

5G, Spectrum Continuity, Spectrum Pricing and AGR … and a freewheeling chat with Vikram Tiwathia of COAI

Paul R. Milgrom and Robert B. Wilson are the joint winners for the Nobel Prize for Economics [1] this year for their work "for improvements to auction theory and inventions of new auction formats." As we understand, the duo is credited with seminal work associated with the efficacy of the auctioning mechanism as a tool for price discovery. The 5G spectrum auctioning mechanism in India faces numerous questions – especially in the context of the newer learnings that we continue to discover through the pandemic. The pandemic has taught us how pivotal telecommunications is to keep the wheels of our economy and the society as a whole, moving. Even otherwise, spectrum auction has ceased to be a purely economic policy issue in India. The last three decades have witnessed heated public discourse on how this commodity be put to use. The dilemma is created by two contrarian forces: Spectrum auction as means of revenue maximization for the government, so that the government is di

India - Don't forget 5G!

I recently conducted a poll on the prospects of 5G roll-out in India. I basically tried to gauge the perception about the availability of 5G in India - on or before 2021; or after that. Expectedly, the overwhelming response was the latter. India has too many challenges to surmount before 5G can make an appearance - the auction process, the operator finances and the choice of vendors. Each of these challenges is a topic for separate discussion. The uncertainty surrounding 5G in India is unfortunate. 5G does promise higher data rates than its predecessor, but that is not its only advantage. 5G institutionalizes network segmentation or 'slicing' according to the traffic profile. It is thus possible for low throughput IoT sensor traffic to co-exist with data-intensive video without the network designer breaking into a sweat. For India, which has ambitions of developing world-class manufacturing, logistics, transportation, healthcare, finance and governance frameworks; it is importa

Microservices - The wind beneath the CNF wings

In my last post, I discussed the pitfalls of microservices, which power CNFs. In this post, I will present the other side of the story. We know that microservices dissect individual CNFs into a mesh of interdependent services that can be containerized independently of each other. I would like you to take a moment a relook at the usage of interdependence and independence carefully. A given CNF is thus a combination of multiple microservices. Our report “Containers and Telcos: Ready to Tango” chronicles and describes several CNFs. Metaswitch for example, offers its virtual IMS (vIMS) as combination of multiple microservices such as SIP routing, HSS proxy, distributed timer database, in-memory open-source database, file-based open-source database and open-source configuration distribution service. Individual microservices have independent development and deployment schedules; and are therefore often managed by dedicated teams. The methodology of microservice development also makes it clea

Be careful with microservices!

Of late, cloud native network functions (CNF) have been gaining steady traction. We tracked the market for CNFs in our report Containers and Telcos - Ready to Tango?. The market prospects for CNFs are very bright, with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) in excess of 50%! 5G and its cloud-native push is undoubtedly the most compelling driver for microservices. The edifice of CNFs, and containers, rests on the tapestry of microservices. I will discuss the benefits of microservices in a later post. The above report is replete with such examples. Make no mistake – CNFs are here to stay, and microservices will drive them deeper into the telecommunications domain. This post is about the cautioning factors surrounding microservices, especially in the network equipment design domain. Most of the challenges associated with microservices are accentuated due to the set, well-entrenched, tried and tested methodologies that dominate telecommunications equipment engineering. Microservices pose a

SDN, NFV and Indian Telcos

  I returned with useful insights from the SDN-NFV India earlier this month. There were two discernible trends – optimistic solution vendors and cautious telcos. Indian telcos are worried about the following: Indian telcos, including the largest ones, are genuinely concerned about the solidity and stability of SDN and NFV products. Telcos think that vendors do not completely appreciate the difference between a service outage suffered by Facebook and an outage suffered by a licensed cellular operator. The former can be irritating, the latter can be catastrophic. Indian telcos are also looking towards concrete ways of making money from SDN and NFV. What works with telcos in the US may not work with Indian telcos. The above points were recurring themes. You could say that Indian telcos were never among the early adopters of technologies. You could also say that Indian telcos are bleeding far too heavily in the present to think rationally about overhauling their networks. Plenty has been s