What is NFV?
Network Function Virtualisation (NFV) uses general hardware such as x86 and virtualisation technology to lower the cost of network equipment. By decoupling software and hardware and separating NFV functions, network functions can be delivered without relying on dedicated hardware, meaning that resources can be flexibly shared.
Why use NFV?
Telecoms networks generally use a high number of dedicated hardware devices, such as a data network router, core network equipment, and a high-performance server. When these devices do not interact, it results in a huge performance waste as well as high construction costs for the telecoms operator. As a result, these hardware devices cannot be shared across different services meaning it takes longer to develop new services. Moreover, operations and maintenance costs rise and a great deal of energy is wasted.
To address these problems, the NFV-based network and service platform was developed. The cloud platform uses NFV technology, general hardware such as x86 and virtualisation technology to support a range of applications. The NFV-based cloud platform can provide network and service functions without relying on dedicated hardware. This enables it to support flexible resource sharing and the rapid development and deployment of new services. It also supports automated deployment, elastic scaling plus fault isolation and recovery based on real-time requirements.
Introducing the ZTE NFV Solution
ZTE has researched NFV technology since 2012, and is now one of the industry leaders in the NFV space. Over the years, ZTE has made great steps forward in developing a high performance and reliable NFV solution that meets the needs of the telecoms business. With carrier-class performance, ZTE’s NFV solution supports open technology and flow programming.
How ZTE developed NFV
In 2013, ZTE proposed the ElasticNet solution for SDN/NFV. This solution centralises control, virtualises functionality and automates the network. It can be applied to a range of applications including the network infrastructure, cloud data centre, and the enterprise network. Moreover, as a member of the board of directors of the NFV open source community, OPNFV, ZTE is dedicated to the optimisation of NFV technology and accelerating the evolution of the traditional network.
In 2014, ZTE organised the joint SDN/NFV lab-based on its industry-leading architecture. This provided partners with an open SDN/NFV environment to test NFV technology in the real world focusing on common scenarios such as core networks and data centres.
In 2015, ZTE was appointed as the sole contractor to provide an NFV-based E2E solution for China Mobile’s RCS platform. The platform will be the biggest NFV-based RCS platform in the world, supporting more elastic, secure and stable network deployment and capacity expansion than ever before.
At MWC 2015, ZTE was praised by China Mobile, becoming one of the first partners of its OPNFV lab.
NFV use cases
At MWC 2015, China Mobile launched its RCS integrated communication service. The world-biggest vIMS-based RCS system and NFV commercial network was constructed solely by ZTE and provides integrated IMS, RCS, VoWiFi and VoLTE services.
ZTE’s NFV architecture
Three horizontal levels:
1. Network Function Virtualisation Infrastructure (NFVI): the resource pool which virtualises the physical computing, storage and network resources.
2. Virtual network layer: this layer corresponds to the telecom service network. Each physical network element is mapped with a virtual network element (VNF). The resources required by the VNF include virtual computing, storage, network resources which are delivered by the NFVI.
3. Operation support layer: the current OSS/BSS system.
Two vertical domains:
1. Service network framework: this refers to the telecoms service network.
2. Management and orchestration framework (MANO): this is responsible for the management and orchestration of all NFVI resources; the mapping and correlation of the service network and NFVI resources; and implementing the OSS service resource process. It consists of the following three parts:
- VIM (Virtualised Infrastructure Manager);
- VNFM (Virtualised Network Function Manager);
- NFVO (Network Function Virtualisation Orchestrator).
These three parts of the system implement the management of NFVI, VNF and NS respectively.
The ZTE NFV platform, based on an OpenStack cloud management platform and integrated with NFV architecture, uses general hardware such as x86 and virtualisation technology to virtualise computing, storage, and network resources. With its unified interface, it provides centralised scheduling and management of these virtual resources and performs VNF management, including automated installation and elastic scaling as well as fault, performance and configuration management. It greatly reduces operation costs and guarantees system security and reliability to meet the network requirements of telecoms operators.