VMware revamps platform for 5G network operators by including cloud-native

With 5G serving as the catalyst for how the communications industry and the cloud industry are coming together, VMware announced its new 5G Telco Cloud Platform last month.

The new platform combined VMware Telco Cloud Infrastructure, which was an evolution of the vCloud NFV solution, and VMware Telco Cloud Automation. VMware's Telco Automation Cloud is a "cloud down" approach to model, on-board, orchestrate and manage virtual network functions (VNFs), cloud-network functions (CNFs) and network services. 

"We're looking at 5G as a way in which wireless and wireline technologies come together," said Shekar Ayyar, executive vice president and general manager for VMware's telco cloud and edge business unit. "We're looking at how things are going to become multi-cloud in nature. How the edge is going to become more prominent in the delivery of low latency services, and how radio access networks are going to get increasingly more disaggregated.

"The collection of these technologies to us is very fascinating in terms of what is happening right now."

With service providers evolving from NFV networks to cloud-native and containerized networks, VMware has evolved its VMware vCloud NFV solution to Telco Cloud Infrastructure. The goal is to give service providers a consistent, unified platform for delving virtual network functions (VNFs) and, eventually, cloud-native functions (CNFs) across telco network.

By using cloud-native with VMware's Telco Cloud Platform, service providers will be able to get their services and applications to market faster, according to VMware.

There are a number of service providers that have already deployed virtualized infrastructures, but now they want to move towards cloud-native.. While cloud service providers are already using cloud-native capabilities, Ayyar said telcos would be in a hybrid mode of VNFs and CNFS for a while yet.

Ayyar said more than 120 service providers are using VMware's Telco Cloud, which didn’t include its 5G Telco Cloud Platform since it became generally available last month. Working with 35 partners, VMware has validated more than 180 network functions to date with most of them third-party VNFs along with VMware's SD-WAN and load balancing VNFs, among others.

Ayyar said vendors such as Ericsson and Nokia were working on getting their containerized network functions validated on VMware's platform. While VNFs have historically been difficult to onboard, VMware said VNFs and CNFs could be onboarded more quickly after passing its certification.

"What we have done in the most recent announcement of our platform is think about it as transforming from initially the siloed vertical approach to a horizontal transformation with NFV," Ayyar said. "But focus at the core to now a full telco cloud architecture that allows for carriers to deploy their core, their edge, their RAN  as well as their private 5G network functions in both a virtualized, as well as a containerized, manner on top of the same uniform platform. "

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For NFV, Ayyar said Vodafone has been a big customer of VMware in its core architecture. Vodafone has deployed VMware in 50 geographies and has seen a 40% agility improvement and 50% cost improvement.

During last week's VMworld 2020 conference, VMware highlighted its 5G work with Dish Network as an example of how its new combined platform can work in a greenfield deployment.

"They are building out their network with the cloud native," Ayyar said. "They are using the VMware platform to build their cloud-native network that they will then deliver 5G solutions to both enterprises and as consumers in the U.S."

Integrated with Telco Cloud Infrastructure, VMware’s Telco Cloud Automation automates the end-to-end lifecycle management of network functions and services to simplify operations and accelerate service delivery while optimizing resources.

Telco Cloud Automation also now supports infrastructure and containers-as-a-Service (CaaS) management automation to streamline workload placement and deliver optimal infrastructure resource allocation. It also significantly simplifies the 5G and telco edge network expansions through zero-touch-provisioning whenever capacity is required.

The new platform also includes VMware's Tanzu Kubernetes Grid, which allows service providers to build, manage and run containerized workloads across private, telco, edge and public cloud.

"Tanzu is our commercial deployment engine that uses Kubernetes as the underlying footprint to deploy containers," Ayyers said. "When we go and package this as a solution and sell it to a customer, it could include Tanzu in that.

"But on the other hand, if a customer comes in and says, 'Hey, we want VMware for this, and we're going to bring our own engine for doing something or other' that works well on top of our platform."