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Cloud Native goes beyond virtualization

Feb 17, 2017 By Liu Hao, Senior Marketing Manager, Cloud Core Network, Huawei

    Key takeaways:

  • All Cloud strategy aims to improve networks, equipment, services, and operations.
  • In the Cloud Native stage, services can be released at any time.

Cloudification is more than just about resources: it’s the comprehensive transformation of architecture. There are three phases involved: Virtualization, Cloudification, and Cloud Native. Cloudification and Cloud Native are both methods for achieving full network cloudification.

The way to All Cloud

In October 2012, 13 leading operators jointly established the NFV-ISG group at the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to push NFV forward. The objectives of NFV-ISG cover decoupling the software and hardware in traditional telecoms equipment; implementing telecoms network functions on general-purpose computing, storage, and networking devices; enhancing management and maintenance efficiency; and strengthening system flexibility.

After more than four years of development, NFV technology is relatively mature and developing rapidly. Standards organizations, open-source communities, operators, and equipment vendors are working together to push forward the development of the NFV industry chain. 

According to Heavy Reading's June 2016 survey, 96 percent of telcos have started network cloudification. The survey also showed that 45 percent plan to complete full network cloudification before 2020. AT&T, Vodafone, Telefónica, Deutsche Telekom, China Mobile, China Unicom, China Telecom, Etisalat, and Ooredoo have all released network transformation strategies and objectives for 2020. 

Huawei’s All Cloud strategy aims to build efficient and agile telecoms networks that can help operators succeed by satisfying user demand.

The core of All Cloud strategy upgrades the network, equipment, services, and operations. All Cloud enables hardware resource pooling, fully distributed software architecture, and fully automated operations. It maximizes resource sharing; provides high scalability, elasticity, and reliability; and fully automates deploying services, scheduling resources, and handling faults.

Three phases to full cloudification

Cloudification is more than resource virtualization – it involves comprehensive architectural changes that enhance efficiency in R&D, service provisioning, and operations.

The full cloudification of carrier networks (All Cloud) takes place over three phases: Virtualization, Cloudification, and Cloud Native. Cloudification and Cloud Native are both methods for achieving full network cloudification. Huawei adopts the design concepts of cloudification from the outset to provide higher flexibility and reliability.

Virtualization 

In this phase, software and hardware decoupling allows multiple network functions to be deployed on unified generalized hardware. This improves resource utilization. However, virtualization alone cannot achieve the full elasticity and flexibility of the entire system. The majority of solutions on the market today are still aimed at the virtualization stage, and are far from being true cloudification solutions.

Cloudification

Virtualized software architecture is optimized and reconstructed through cloudification. Network functions are cloudified, enabling fast delivery, smart O&M, and service innovation. System flexibility and elasticity are maximized, and resource utilization and performance further improved.

Cloud architecture: The new system must support three-layer software architecture comprising distributed load balancing, distributed databases, and stateless service processing units. It can complete elastic scaling in seconds without interrupting ongoing sessions, improving resource utilization and service elasticity and ensuring that carrier-grade capabilities are independent from hardware infrastructure. The new architecture also introduces automated service and resource orchestration, improving the flexibility and elasticity of the entire system.

Rapid delivery: Cloudified architecture needs to be completely open and support different kinds of generalized hardware and cloudified operating systems. Equipment from multiple vendors can be integrated with completely open cloudified architecture. The risks with multi-vendor integration are drastically reduced by performing integration testing on NFV network architecture in multi-vendor environments, verifying software and hardware solutions, and pre-integration. This shortens deployment time, allowing for fast delivery.

Smart O&M: Technological innovations, such as KPI-based health checks, self-healing, and multi-DC-based disaster recovery, can achieve five nines carrier-class reliability on cloudified networks. Smart tools, including performance evaluation and E2E fault demarcation/location tools, enable fully automated service deployment, on-demand resource orchestration, and rapid fault recovery and self-healing. These technologies and tools allow for agile and smart O&M on cloudified networks.

Service innovation: Using cloudified architecture, carriers can provide a one-stop network capability exposure platform for third-party partners. The platform can provide an integrated operations model covering the entire service lifecycle, including development, testing, deployment, and O&M. On the platform, telecoms resources – such as voice, video, location, QoS, and third-party applications – are packaged into APIs or SDKs, and shared with partners. This accelerates new service innovation and deployment, benefiting both operators and partners.

Cloud Native

The concept of Cloud Native amalgamates different ideas, including DevOps, continuous delivery, micro-services, agile infrastructure, Conway's Law, and organizational restructuring based on commercial capability. 

Cloud Native integrates cloud computing technologies and enterprise management methods, enabling companies to migrate services to cloud platforms more efficiently and quickly. In doing so, they can gain the high efficiency and on-demand resource allocation capabilities of an All Cloud system.

Cloud Native has three major business drivers: elasticity, robustness, and agility. It introduces key architectural support technologies that expand and enhance the original components of the cloud system. Cloud Native is a natural evolution of the cloud system.

Elasticity: Network-level distributed architecture is the core. The key technologies are control and user plane separation, unified service chain, control plane reconstruction, and cross-DC deployment. These enable on-demand deployment based on service awareness, meeting the experience requirements of different applications.

Robustness: Network-level and service-level smart O&M capabilities are the core. The key technologies are network-level redundancy, active fault detection and self-healing, and big data service management. These enable high reliability, independent of infrastructure.

Agility: Network slicing, programmability, and grey release are the core. The key technologies are microservices, data model driving, and application orchestration. They enable the rapid and flexible release and deployment of new services for an optimal balance between resources and performance.

When operators evolve to the final Cloud Native stage, network functions can be flexibly assembled, network services can be released at any time, and network O&M and service operations will be fully automated. As a result, carriers gain unparalleled flexibility, efficiency, speed, and elasticity. They are able to rapidly deploy services and their operating efficiency is greatly enhanced. They can quickly meet the needs of different network application scenarios and differentiated business demands. And they can agilely and flexibly meet the service requirements of vertical industries. At this point, carriers have achieved a true All Cloud network.

Of course, the commercial application of Cloud Native is not an easy or quick task. Various challenges exist that need to be overcome, including microservice decomposition, telecom-level service management frameworks, resource orchestration management frameworks, and limitations in container technology. And application depends on the actual circumstances of the services themselves.

For operators, the path to All Cloud is a long and complicated evolution process that involves the complete transformation of all aspects of the telco's business, including network architecture, organizational structure and personnel, and procurement, business, and operating models. It also requires open collaboration across the entire industry chain, including operators, infrastructure providers, software providers, and service providers. 

Huawei provides full support to help carriers achieve All Cloud, which can be replicated by the entire industry.

Success stories

Vodafone is one of the industry's most forward-looking telcos. With its "Everything moves on Cloud" vision, the leading carrier has embraced next-gen network architecture and technologies. Vodafone's vision is to migrate everything onto cloud, including networking functions, consumer and vertical industry applications, and internal IT systems. It aims to reduce costs, accelerate new service TTM, and enable agile operations. In July 2015, Vodafone Italy collaborated with Huawei to launch the world's first cloud-based commercial VoLTE network, marking a milestone that year.

Huawei has established NFV Open Labs in China’s Xi'an, in Silicon Valley in California, and in Munich, Germany. Bringing together operators, partners, and industry organizations, the labs combine verification and joint innovation to accelerate the commercialization of NFV solutions. 

In Q2 2016, Huawei and a number of operators formed strategic partnerships, since which time more than 90 commercial cloud networks have been or are currently being deployed. 

Huawei and Telenet deployed Europe's first commercial VoWi-Fi network in Belgium, and Huawei also rolled out the first Evolved Packet Core (EPC) network in Europe with Monaco Telecom. In the UK, Huawei and Hutchison deployed the world's first cloud-based Diameter Routing Agent (DRA) network. In another first, Huawei and Ooredoo deployed the first commercial cloudified network in the Middle East. Ooredoo and Huawei jointly picked up the Infrastructure Innovation Award at the Global Telecoms Business (GTB) Innovation Awards 2016 for this project.

Huawei was awarded Best Cloud/Virtualized IMS Solution Award at IMS World Forum 2015 for the second time, following its first win the previous year. In 2016, Huawei was awarded the prize for Innovation in PCRF (Policy and Charging Rule Function) virtualization at Policy Control Conference 2016 and Best Network Virtualization Product at LTE Latin America.

Building more open, innovative, and healthy industry ecosystems deepens collaboration. Together, Huawei and its partners will create more innovative services and commercial value for carrier customers to drive the full cloudification of operator networks. 

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